WENDELL — The East Wake wrestling program finally has something to show for the past eight months of fundraising.
The East Wake Duals on Jan. 25 marked the debut of a new wrestling mat that replaces a 24-year-old predecessor. The new mat is larger, softer and lighter than the old mat – one Warriors coach Brian Staples said had been in use ever since East Wake and Zebulon high schools merged.
“It’s got hard over the years, so it’s tough on the guys wrestling on it,” Staples said of the old pad. “It’s kind of like landing on concrete. And it’s got a bunch of cuts and tears on it.
“It’s done its job, but it’s really starting to show its age.”
The new mat is 42x42, the largest the school has ever had. Staples, a 1985 graduate of East Wake, oversaw the effort to raise about $7,000 to pay for the mat but gave much of the credit to another former Warrior wrestler for helping hit the mark.
Former WWE wrestler Shane “The Hurricane” Helms, showed his support of his high school program by bringing other professional wrestlers to the school for a live wrestling event over the 2013 Memorial Day weekend. Staples said the event, hosted by OMEGA Championship Wrestling, raised the majority of the money for the new mat.
“Shane really took a personal interest in helping us get this accomplished,” Staples said. “He donated all his earnings from that event back to the wrestling program. He was able to get big names there and we had about 800 (in attendance) that night.
“It never would have been successful if it wasn’t for Shane Helms and (promoter) Mike Howell.”
Staples said Helms also secured a donation from the Hermie & Elliot Sadler Charitable Foundation, formed by the NASCAR brothers to raise awareness of autism and support educational opportunities. Hermie Sadler attended the showcase at East Wake.
The rest of the bill was covered by donations from local civic clubs and individuals in the community.
“It really was a community effort from those who came out to the show and those who couldn’t, but still made donations to help us get this mat,” Staples said.
The mat was ordered shortly after the Warriors’ wrestling season began in November. Staples said it was nice to have the new cushion in place by the time of his team’s annual competition.
“It was nice to be able to announce it was the debut of the mat, and we got a little applause from the crowd,” he said. “My goal was to give the school and the program something that will last the next 20-25 years, and I think we’ve done that.”
Swansboro had the most success in the first whirl on the fresh surface, going 5-0 to win the six-team East Wake Duals event.
Knightdale went 4-1, losing only to Swansboro. East Wake finished 2-3 with wins over Enloe and Cary Academy and losses to Swansboro, Franklinton and Knightdale.
Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews