PEMBROKE — Will Deese will be the fourth generation to attend The University of North Carolina at Pembroke this fall, and will be a second generation student-athlete.
Deese signed his letter of intent to wrestle for the Braves next season in a ceremony at the Purnell Swett High School media center on Friday to follow in his father’s, William, footsteps after he played baseball for the Braves in the 80s.
“It’s right here at home. I didn’t really want to go too far away,” Deese said. “Plus, Daddy went there and it really looked good to me.
“They have a great program and it’s right here in town. They have worked really hard to look good and I really like where they are going.”
Deese was a part of the record-setting senior class for Purnell Swett that won the Sandhills Athletic Conference and advanced to the East regional final in the program’s first appearance in the NCHSAA state dual team tournament, and became the first Purnell Swett wrestler to sign to wrestle at the collegiate level. At the individual state tournament in February, Deese came in the 132-pound weight class.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot here, and it makes me feel real good,” Deese said of the historical mark he left on the program. “I’m grateful I’ve got this opportunity.”
After signing on to wrestle at the university right in his backyard, Deese already has picked up a nickname from his high school coach.
“I’m expecting him to be our hometown hero and take the guys to go see him when he wrestles,” Nicky Barnes said. “You set all these different landmarks in your coaching career and this is a big one because it is about the athlete.”
The Braves are coming off a season where they sent four wrestlers to the NCAA wrestling championships and won the Eastern College Athletic Conference. While being close to come was a plus for Deese, going to a winning program that has produced three national champions in six years also was a key reason to continue his wrestling career.
“I really couldn’t see myself going anywhere else because I’m such a homebody,” he said. “And it’s such a great program. … Seeing familiar faces (at home meets) will really help out a lot.”
Deese brings with him a hard work ethic that Barnes saw right from his freshman year when he wanted to name Deese a captain as a first-year wrestler. That work ethic caught the attention of UNCP coach Othello Johnson at a camp while he was recruiting.
“The breaking moment was at a prospect camp and he went there and worked and worked and worked,” Barnes said. “They are looking for someone to come in and work and were blow away by his work ethic. The coach at UNCP tried to give me the credit, and I told him that I can’t take credit for his work ethic, he’s just something special.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.