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It's not easy being on an athletic team that goes into a contest thinking there's a good chance it won't win.

So how hard do you think it is for the guys on the James Buchanan wrestling team, who go into every match knowing they can't win as a team?

It's a simple matter of numbers.

The Rockets, when at full strength, have only four wrestlers in their lineup, so the maximum points they can score is 24. So as long as the other team has five wrestlers in weight classes JB does not, then the outcome is known before the match begins.

"It's tough," James Buchanan coach Matt Gordon said. "We hear things from other schools, and parents and fans. The kids hear stuff at school, too. And it's embarrassing when you lose by some of the scores we have (84-0 to Waynesboro, and 68 to minus-1 to Shippensburg)."

But, according to Gordon, the four Rockets - Derek Pine, Aaron Frick, Jae-Lin Carmack and Hunter Adkins - are hanging in there.

"Their attitude has been surprisingly good," Gordon said. "They've been coming to practice every day and trying to stay motivated."

Motivation would seem to be the biggest problem. At least in wrestling, every wrestler has a shot in the postseason.

Gordon said, "This is by far the toughest year of coaching (in his 11th year as head coach) I've had. Trying to keep the kids motivated and trying to stay motivated as a coaching staff is not easy. But they've handled it pretty well."

James Buchanan does have a middle school team with 24 wrestlers, which is a high number for the Rockets, and 16 of them will be eligible to move up to the varsity next year. That's what Gordon is banking on.

And those younger kids are experiencing practice in the same room as the varsity, so they'll be familiar with Gordon.

"We haven't lost any of those 24 kids, and they've won a few matches, which is better than in the past," he said. "I have a pretty good relationship with them already so that should help for next year."

The Rockets, understandably, have had some lightning-quick dual meets this year. Against Waynesboro, JB had Pine and Adkins out, so only two bouts were wrestled and both were first-period pins.

In a 22-18 defeat to Fairfield, of the 14 weight classes, seven were double forfeits. Adkins won by fall and Pine and Carmack won by forfeit. The difference was that the Green Knights had a major decision and three forfeit wins.

Neither of those matches lasted more than 10 minutes.

But the season must seem like it's lasting an eternity.

TEAM UPDATE: The cutoff date for the District 3 Team Championships is Saturday. As of Wednesday night, Chambersburg was ranked No. 8 in Class 3A and Shippensburg was No. 12. Trojans still have Central Dauphin and Waynesboro left, while Ship has West Perry.

Pairings will be announced officially Sunday.

RANKINGS: Area wrestlers ranked in the Top 25 in the state by Pa. Power through Jan. 18: 120 pounds - 25.Seth Runshaw (Chambersburg); 132 - 3.Chandler Olson (Shippensburg); 138 - 18.Aaron Rump (Chbg); 152 - (15) Drake Brenize (Chbg); 160 - 20.Luke Nichter (Chbg); 182 - 3.Drew Peck (Chbg); 195 - 9.Cole Forrester (Ship), 25.Seth Egolf (Waynesboro); 285 - 6.Cameron Tinner (Ship).

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