HAVELOCK | Krystian Kinsey believes he should have won his consolation match at the state wrestling championships in February. He battled, but fell one point shy of moving on in his third bout of the tournament.
Havelock’s rising junior wrestler is doing what he can to better himself for next season – and that includes putting in extra work during the offseason.
Kinsey was one of more than 60 that attended this week’s Havelock High Wrestling Camp, instructed by coaches and grapplers from North Carolina State.
“I’m learning better positioning and how to better handle situations and things like that,” said Kinsey, who wrestled at 132 pounds this past season. “It’s going to take a lot of heart and extra hard work and determination.”
The camp opened Monday and closed Friday as assistant coaches and wrestlers from N.C. State came and left. The final day, the head man himself, Wolfpack’s fourth-year head coach Pat Popolizio taught, coached and delivered messages to the attentive group.
“As a staff, we’ve been coming down here all week. We picked a day to come down to work with everyone that’s been at camp so we can spend the whole day with them and give back the knowledge that we have as coaches, and hopefully help those kids with aspirations to wrestle at the next level – whether it’s at the state level or the college level,” Popolizio said.
Havelock hosted N.C. State’s wrestling staff for the fourth year in a row – the previous three were held at the middle school.
Havelock coach Chase Holleman met with assistant coaches from N.C. State while at a coaching conference four years ago. After talking with the staff, who wanted to do camp near the coast, Holleman jumped in and offered to host them.
This year’s camp, held at the high school, had students from Havelock, Swansboro, Croatan, New Bern and Southern Wayne, along with Havelock’s youth wrestling team – the Havelock Mat rats.
“It’s a great experience, especially seeing what the N.C. State coaches might teach in their own room to their own wrestlers, and how I can benefit from that,” Kinsey said.
In just a short period of time, Popolizio transitioned N.C. State into a national powerhouse – with a final ranking in the top five. The Wolfpack won the ACC Championship and placed 11th at the NCAA National Championships.
Along the way, they beat perennial dynamos Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Minnesota and five other ranked opponents.
“It was a lot of work, took a lot of work ethic,” Popolizio said. “The work ethic was a big part of it, but the discipline that our guys had, coming in as athletes, and just seeing their maturity and their belief and confidence was a huge part of it.
“The structure we run with the program has helped us quite a bit. It’s continuing to help us with recruiting.”
N.C. State qualified six for nationals, with three All-Americans, and heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski was runner-up. The Wolfpack have the top-ranked recruiting class.
“We recruit the country, we recruit the world. Whether a kid comes from North Carolina or across the country, we will take him if he fits our mold,” said Popolizio. “Our job is to win, so as long as they can win and does the things we ask him to do, it doesn’t matter where the kid comes from.
“The better the high schools are, the easier it makes our job.”
Popolizio instructed for three hours Friday morning, and then after an hour break, he resumed for three more hours in the afternoon.
“I think it motivates them a little more because you have some kids here who want to wrestle at the next level,” Holleman said. “I tell them to take as much in as you can. I film everything that he teaches, even just the little motivational speeches. Then, we will break down film and drill a lot of the stuff that he’s gone over.
“It keeps them motivated going into the summer.”
Adam Thompson is the sports editor at the Sun Journal. He can be contacted at 252-635-5669. Follow Adam on Twitter @A_ThompsonNBSJ