Weddington wrestling duo hope to leave an impression at big meet
by Mike Shaw
Weddington’s Joe Centrella and Jake Perkins have been hard at work this week preparing for the individual 3A Western Regional wrestling tournament at Charlotte’s Bojangles’ Coliseum Friday and Saturday, Feb. 18-19. And while their motivations may differ slightly, Centrella and Perkins hope that they can enjoy similar results.
Centrella, the Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference’s Wrestler of the Year, finished the season 56-1. He’s ranked third in the 171-pound division among Class 3A wrestlers, according to retrorankings.com, with his only loss coming to sixth-ranked Matt Berry from Southwest Randolph.
Centrella first qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore and advanced to the quarterfinals. As each year passed, Centrella got better, which has served as motivation.
“I continue to wrestle because every day I get better, and I’m very competitive,” said Centrella.
Weddington coach Jeff Kugler believes it’s Centrella’s attention to detail that makes him a standout.
“He works hard and is always trying to fix mistakes, no matter how small,” said Kugler. “He has a lot of natural wrestling ability, but his dedication to the sport also impacts his success.
“He is extremely dedicated. He works hard in the weight room and is constantly pushing himself to get better. For him, there is no off-season. He’s always looking for opportunities to improve.”
But that’s just the physical preparation.
“I prepare by going through the steps in my head thinking about what I’m going to do and what I will do when (my opponent) reacts,” said Centrella. “During the match, I think about people I don’t like or things that make me mad. It gives me motivation.”
Don’t underestimate Centrella’s experience, either, said Kugler.
“He has been improving all year,” the coach said. “He had a few tough conference matches, which should help him these next couple of weeks.”
Perkins , the fifth-ranked 215-pounder in Class 3A, has battled to a 47-2 record this season, with his only losses coming to second-ranked Javier Ortiz of Southwest Randolph and third-ranked Micah Honeycutt of China Grove Carson.
Perkins began wrestling when he was in the sixth grade. But when he got to Weddington, he was stuck behind two seniors in his weight class. But that didn’t stop him from seizing an opportunity.
“It was really a learning year. I had some really good practice partners who were state qualifiers, and they taught me a lot,” said Perkins. “I guess I had to pay my dues, but it really made me want to improve.”
His dedication paid off the next season as he earned several accolades. He continued his success into his junior year, compiling a 42-5 record and earned all-conference honors, as well as a second-place finish at the regional tournament. However, his season ended abruptly the day before the state tournament when he dislocated his elbow in practice. But he still made the trek to the state meet to cheer on his teammates.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, to watch and know you were supposed to be there,” said Perkins. “It has made me want to be there this year. This year is my time.”
As he prepares for this year’s state tournament, Perkins is keeping his mind focused on one match at a time.
“I want to do my very best, leave nothing undone,” said Perkins. “No regrets. Give all that I have and win.”
Although his journey hasn’t been an easy one, his passion hasn’t faltered.
“I am passionate about wrestling, and I’ve learned that if you love it, you don’t mind working hard at it, and good things come from that,” said Perkins.
Until regionals, Perkins and Centrella were forced to practice against each other, which, considering each of their individual goals, isn’t such a bad thing.
“It will help me that he’s there because we are competitive with each other,” said Centrella. “So, if he keeps on winning matches, I’ll make sure I do, too.”
Added Perkins: “(Centrella) and I believe in each other. I know he can be a champion. When I need it, he pushes me and believes in me. He believes I can be a champion.”
Wrestling has taught Centrella a valuable lesson that both can use while preparing for states.
“Never give up,” said Centrella. “If you think you can’t do it, try harder.”