Athlete of Week: Panthers, Wunderlich making moves

cfwrestle-pjIf there was an award for most improved wrestling team in the area, that honor would go to Carolina Forest. And if there was an award for most improved wrestler, the Panthers’ pint-sized warrior PJ Wunderlich fits the bill.

The sophomore 113-pounder embodies the gains that have been made by the Carolina Forest program. Just as the Panthers rebounded from a rough stretch to capture the Region 6-4A title, Wunderlich has also made great strides in a short period.

“We didn’t have a great season last year, but this year we had more kids come out, we had some kids transfer in from up North, and our coaches ran some great practices,” said Wunderlich, who won the individual region title at 113 and the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week award.

“We hadn’t won the region since 2012, and that’s when we were making the move up from 3A to 4A. That’s the hardest level and we’ve gotten better against some really good competition.”

The Panthers’ season came to an end over the weekend in a loss in the second round of the Class 4A state tournament, but Wunderlich is still in the hunt for an individual state title. Wrestling between the 106 and 113 weight classes this season, Wunderlich has amassed a 35-3 record – a tremendous improvement from his 30-15 record as a freshman. He hopes to go even farther this year.

“Last year it was in this huge gym with lots of people and I struggled a little,” he recalled. “I had never seen that many people and I froze up a little bit, but I think I’m going to handle it lot better this time. I spent the summer going to camps and wrestling in big national tournaments where there are thousands of people there. I handled that well, so I should be able to handle anything.”

As only a sophomore, Wunderlich says he isn’t feeling any pressure since he has three years to capture a state title. But his rapid rise up the rankings has him shooting for multiple titles, a streak he would love to begin at next weekend’s Lower State Tournament and continue all the way to the states. He hopes the momentum continues for him and his teammates.

“I would love to win it as a sophomore but I’m really not feeling any pressure since I have two more years,” Wunderlich said. “I just want to give it my best and keep working hard to get better and help my team.”

Given Wunderlich’s rapid improvement, the sky is the limit for him and the Panthers’ program.

Photo by Prep Stars Media

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