TAYLORS — Eastside High wrestling coach Jack Kosmicki called it “a win-win-win” for the students.
Because of a scheduling conflict, the Eagles’ wrestling team moved its home match against Chapman up to 3 p.m. Wednesday and turned it into both a charity event and an opportunity for the Eastside students to support a state power in their midst.
Students were able to buy their way out of class for either $3 or a brand new toy, with all of the proceeds going to the Greenville chapter of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
“They get to watch wrestling, they get to help a charity and they get out of class,” Kosmicki said.
It turned into a big win for the Eagles, who defeated Chapman 61-9, and it was especially rewarding for both Toys for Tots and the Eastside wrestlers.
Corporal Stephen Shaw and Staff Sergeant Josh Knisely of the Marine Corps Reserves in Greenville were on hand representing Toys for Tots, which benefited from the stacks of toys and the $1,812 that were collected.
“It brings that feeling of joy that we all feel during Christmastime to those who don’t have as much,” Shaw said.
The Chapman team also showed up with two big bags of toys. Panthers coach Andrew Cartee said his wrestlers and students in his classes both pitched in.
“The wrestlers really bought into it, and so did some of the students,” Cartee said. “It’s great for the wrestlers to think of it more than just in terms of ‘I’ and to think about the kids who are less fortunate than them, and the different ways they can contribute and help out the community.”
It’s not surprising that a nice sum of money was raised because, as Kosmicki said, “It was the biggest crowd we’ve ever had.”
The gym was nearly full when the lights dimmed and the Eagles ran out onto the mat accompanied by a loud roar.
“It was a crazy atmosphere,” said senior Zane Mitchell, who pinned his opponent in their 126-pound match. “We usually don’t have this many students at one match. The last match we had this many people here was Upper State two years ago against (Belton-Honea Path), but it’s never been this many students. It was awesome finally getting to wrestle in front of the students.”
“At night, we have big crowds,” said Kosmicki. “I’m always proud of our crowds. But our crowds are made up of alumni wrestlers, parents of alumni, current youth wrestlers and their families. We don’t get Eastside students and teachers. We don’t get anybody outside of wrestling at our matches, and it surprises a lot of people. It’s past, present and future of the Eastside wrestling program that’s filling the stands.”
On this day, it was largely the future of Eastside wrestling that was beating Chapman. Mitchell is the lone senior in the Eagles’ lineup.
Nonetheless, they are 8-0, including 2-0 in the Peach Blossom AAA Region. That’s a good start for a program that has won 10 state titles and 23 consecutive region championships.
Mitchell, Jordan White (106), Charles Tompkins (160), Jack Beehler (182), Anthony Fernandez (195) and DeShawn Sullivan (285) won by pin for Eastside.
Sam Blumer (145) won by major decision, Sean Hoppenhauer (120), Chance Pride (138) and Ian Rodgers by decision and Pangmazan Rumthao (113) and Cruise Baker (132) by forfeit.
The Eagles won three matches in North Carolina Tuesday night, but Kosmicki said they looked much better Wednesday.
“I think the setting, the environment and the whole situation made it a lot better for them,” he said. “They wrestled tough.”
“It was awesome being able to get a really nice move or a nice kind of throw and hear the gym fill with uproar,” said Mitchell.
Eastside filled the win column. The gym was filled with noise. The bins were filled with toys.
Indeed, a win-win-win.