SPRING HILL — With a line of former Springstead standouts sitting along the wall of the wrestling room, Eric Swensen sums up the season to his current grapplers.
Among the athletes listening attentively to the coach is a 6-foot-3, 240-pound baby face. He is soft-spoken and always seems to be wearing a smile, but John Dreggors is one of most feared members of the Springstead program.
Dreggors, 15, is in his first season with Springstead and is quickly finding out Eagles wrestling isn't just a wrestling team; it's a family. The evidence of that family came in Monday's practice as former stars like Schuyler Swanton, Mike Heagney, C.J. Cook, Scott Wern and Steven Bliss came back to work with the new ones.
"We focus on the team concept here," Swensen said. "Everybody's expected to win, but there's less pressure when you can all carry that load."
Last season, Dreggors was a district champion for Citrus. He had been wrestling year-round with the Citrus Wrestling Club and had lofty goals. With his potential, all of those goals were within reach.
However, the pressure was also lofty.
Since he was 3, Dreggors has been led to the sport by his father, a former high school wrestler in Miramar. The elder John Dreggors always wanted to win a state title but never accomplished the feat. He fell in love with the sport and passed that passion onto his son.
For a time, the younger Dreggors stepped away from wrestling. He wanted to play other sports, like baseball and football. When he returned to the mat, he realized he loved it more than ever. He was a natural big man, a rare commodity at his age.
In eighth grade, he was an FAWA individual state champion at 215 pounds. Many teammates and coaches believed he was the future of Citrus wrestling. The expectations became tough to live up to as he heard people telling him he would be the school's first four-time state qualifier.
"I felt like I had to win every match," Dreggors said. "I knew I had a good chance to win, but I was pretty nervous with everyone watching."
He qualified for the state tournament as a freshman but fell short of placing. By comparison, North Marion's Matt Pringle, the wrestler he pinned to win the district title, placed fifth. Dreggors has already gone on to pin Pringle this season in the Kiwanis Invitational at Hernando.
Dreggors' family moved from Inverness to Spring Hill this summer, and he fell into Springstead's lap. While the Eagles have been an elite program for years, one weight class where they've lacked a legitimate state title contender is heavyweight. While former Springstead heavyweights Andy Leavine and Carlos Ramirez were strong wrestlers, neither had the potential of Dreggors.
"Carlos and Andy were football players that wrestled," Swensen said. "John is a wrestler, period. He really fits the bill of what we're looking for."
Emphasis on team achievements has taken a lot of pressure off the sophomore. State titles are nothing new in the Springstead wrestling room, and if Dreggors continues on his current path, there is no reason he can't be the next in line for that honor.
"When you get a kid that size who wrestles first, you can see some great things," Swensen said. "For Dreggors, the sky's the limit."