North Myrtle Beach wrestling entered the season with all the ingredients of a team that would struggle.
First-year coach. Check.
Few wrestlers with previous accolades to hang their hats on. Check.
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Such is why the Chiefs’ first-ever trip to the duals state championship match has been so impressive. North Myrtle Beach, ranked 10th in Class 4A by scmat.com, is set to take on top-seeded Eastside at 3 p.m. Saturday at Airport High School with a chance at making school history.
“We’re young, but our kids come to work with that blue-collar mentality with the lunchbox in their hand,” said Chris Mazyck, who’s coaching wrestling for the first time despite many years coaching other sports such as football and track and field. “They’re ready to work and learn and soak up as much knowledge as they can.”
The Chiefs are made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores as the squad has just four seniors. Mazyck said the program has plenty of depth, which has played a big role despite the fact that only 14 wrestlers can compete in a given match.
“We have kids here that work together. It’s the best man up, whatever works to help the program advance, and these kids have bought into that,” he said. “That’s why we’re successful, because they have the we-before-me mentality, which is big in a program like this.”
Mazyck, who came from Calhoun County to join North Myrtle Beach as a defensive line coach on the football team and wrestling coach, said he has a vast background of turning around programs. He said the Chiefs’ wrestling situation was “pretty easy to turn around.”
Mazyck credits his four main cogs, seniors E.J. Vereen (113-pound class), M.J. Michaud (138), Marcellus Livingston (195) and Curtis Wolfe (220), for leading the way for a team that has had so much success despite its youth.
“They’re crucial as far as the program and helping the program perform and helping get it to states,” he said.
Wolfe has three fourth-place finishes in the individual state meet on his resume and is ranked second in his weight class by scmat.com, while is Livingston is ranked eighth by the publication at 195 pounds. Two other Chiefs are ranked by scmat.com: Jackie Gore (fifth, 145 pounds) and Malachi Black (seventh, 285).
Conversely, Eastside has six wrestlers ranked No. 1 in their weight class by scmat.com, one who is second, one who is fifth and another who is sixth.
“You want to respect your opponent,” Mazyck said. “Our guys, we know we’re a young team but we’re fighters. But like I told the guys in the beginning of the week — the 5A teams we had to face, Conway, they came in here, we beat them, Socastee, they came in here and we beat them. The tougher teams in our duals we did fairly well with, so I knew we had a special group.
“It’s just a matter of our guys being focused and understanding that if we all do our jobs anything can happen. We expect to win.”
And should the Chiefs do just that, history will be made.
“This is the first,” Mazyck said. “This is something good for the kids and the community.”