When he arrived at Whale Branch Early College High School, Travis Wynn heard his wrestling team would be stacked with depth and senior leadership.
The first-year Warriors coach discovered otherwise a short time into the season. Wrestlers dropped off or didn't come out at all.
But Wynn has been pleased with the group that remains as he works to recruit more wrestlers. The Warriors defeated Class 3-A James Island, 48-26, at home Thursday, despite forfeiting three bouts.
"This is the group that stayed," said Wynn, a former Beaufort High School wrestler who won a state title in 2008. "And they're good. They work. They're dedicated for the most part. We've got the talent, we just need a full lineup."
James Island had finished second at the Warriors' dual tournament earlier this month, and Wynn thought his team might be in for a fight. But the Trojans also had to forfeit three classes. Whale Branch jumped on the visitors, starting with Mark Rivers' pin at 160 pounds, and picked up four more pins on the way to improving to 4-3.
Rivers, a senior who also played football, said some of his senior classmates might be skeptical of a new coach or have decided to spend their time in different ways. Rivers and his wrestling teammates have been trying to recruit in the halls and classes.
"Every day -- during school, after school, before school starts," Rivers said. "We try to get people to come."
Experience is not a requirement. Rivers picked up the sport his junior year and finished 30-12 on the season. He improved to 7-0 this year with Thursday's pin.
Rivers said he has gained confidence in moves he was previously not confident enough to try. Part of his development could be attributed to Wynn, he said. The Warriors are covering the basics early in the season -- half-nelson defense and offense, avoiding pins and finishing pins. Rivers said potential teammates should not stay away because of a new coach.
"All the people aboard now have a lot of respect for him, and they should have respect for him," Rivers said. "He's a really good coach. He teaches us a lot of stuff we didn't learn last year. He has a different style, and it's working so far."
Wynn knew the Warriors would surrender an automatic 12 points to forfeits Thursday. He wanted a strong start and pointed to Juan Allen's pin at 182 as an important turning point. Senior Trey Nelson also delivered a pin at 220, and Whale Branch earned easy points to forfeits in the lighter weights.
All but two bouts were decided by pin or forfeit. Whale Branch heavyweight Max Ford dropped a decision to Chris Flynn. And freshman Elijah Morales earned a hard-fought victory at 132 pounds when James Island's Stanford Fludd was disqualified in the third period for excessive technical violations.
The Warriors' next test is a trip to Cane Bay for a tournament featuring larger, tougher schools, such as neighboring Battery Creek and Beaufort High and Class 4-A power Summerville. Wynn said he would work with football coach Jerry Hatcher to lure more wrestlers. Until then, he is content with his scrappy bunch.
"They don't quit," Wynn said. "If I can just fill my holes, we'll be something to reckon with."
Whale Branch 48, James Island 26
106: Jalile Jones (WB) won by forfeit
113: Chris Conn (WB) won by forfeit
120: Ben Janse (JI) pinned Rodney Watson, third period
126: Javon Gardner (WB) pinned Ryan Sandifer, second period
132: Elijah Morales (WB) DQ Stanford Fludd, third period
138: Lavar Washington (WB) pinned Markeese Desaussure, second period
145: Leviticus Ladson (JI) won by forfeit
152: Frank Cromwell (JI) won by forfeit
160: Mark Rivers (WB) pinned Zachary Attardo, first period
170: Rupert Stalvey (JI) pinned Howard Allen, first period
182: Juan Allen (WB) pinned River Dixon, first period
195: Double forfeit
220: Trey Nelson (WB) pinned Deaundre Coker, first period
285: Chris Flynn (JI) dec. Max Ford, 6-4