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Ray Darden


The Daily Reflector

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ayden-Grifton wrestler Ray Darden is undefeated so far in his junior season. Darden chatted with Reflector prep sports beat writer Jordan Anders this week about adjusting to wrestling after a childhood of just playing football, as well as his quest to reach the state championships.

Q: How long have you been wrestling?

A: Three years. I started my freshman year and I was new to it.

Q: Why did you start?

A: It was just something to keep me in shape. I kept riding the bus home and one day (A-G wrestling coach Jeff Wooten) was like, ‘Ray, you need to get a second sport.’ I said, ‘Coach, I don’t know. I just like football,’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you try out wrestling?’ So I came out and started doing it as just something to help me stay in shape.

Q: How long had you played football before you got into wrestling?

A: Oh, I played football since I was little, playing rec league and stuff like that.

Q: What is your favorite part of wrestling?

A: What I really enjoy is it’s an individual sport and it’s just yourself. I mean, you have team duals and you want to win for your team, but you’ve got to hold yourself accountable. The only way you can lose is if you don’t have it mentally.

Q: The individuality of wrestling is a pretty stark contrast to the team-oriented mentality of football. Does it take you a while to adjust to wrestling season once football season ends?

A: You’ve just got to realize that it’s still a team sport, but at the same time, on the mat, it’s just you and the guy in front of you. It’s just you. No coaches. No other players. Just you and him, and if you don’t have it mentally, you’re not going to win.

Q: What’s the biggest thing from football that helps you as a wrestler?

A: Just drive and motivation, and the strength to keep going. That’s what helps me.

Q: Let’s talk technique. What’s your strongest attribute on the mat?

A: My wrist control. Anybody who wrestles me knows I always try to go for the wrist. As long as I control your wrist, I can control anything you do with movement and stuff. That’s what I really go for.

Q: Was that a strength of yours from the start or something you had to develop?

A: It was something I had to develop. I had to realize that other guys are stronger than me, but if I can control a certain area and how they move and stuff — because I’m usually smaller than most guys — then I’m a little faster and my wind is a little longer.

Q: What do you think is the biggest difference between the freshman coach Wooten convinced to try out for wrestling and the competitor you are today?

A: My knowledge of the sport itself. My freshman year, I wasn’t really that good because I hadn’t been doing it for a long time. As I started progressing, my mentality told me, ‘Ray, you need to stop losing.’ That kicked in and I started learning the stuff and learning the technique, because I really wasn’t into it at first.

Q: What’s your record this year?

A: I’m 10-0.

Q: What do you think has been the biggest key to your strong season?

A: I think the biggest key has been practice. ... You can see a difference between going a full week of practice and then going to a match, and going one day of practice and going to a match. There’s a big difference.

Q: You made it to regionals last year and lost in the fourth round, just missing out on a trip to states. How much is that driving you this year?

A: It’s a lot more motivation. My biggest thing is just to try to make it to regionals and do whatever I’ve got to do to make it to states. Being a state contender is a big opportunity, and winning states would be even bigger, but my main goal this year is just to make it there.

Q: How confident are you that you can do that?

A: I’m pretty confident. All I know is, this year, I haven’t lost and I’m just trying to keep it that way. The only way to make it to states for sure is to not lose.

If you have a suggestion for a player to be featured in Prep Spotlight, contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

High Schools

October 22, 2018

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s release of volleyball state playoff brackets Monday afternoon saw two Pitt County teams earn No. 1 seeds. Matches begin Tuesday.

In the top of the 3-A East bracket is undefeated D.H. Conley (21-0), which opens in Greenville as 32nd-…


October 22, 2018

A game traditionally known to be a tight, high-scoring affair ended up being highly one-sided contest Friday night, as D.H. Conley defeated rival J.H. Rose 48-21 win for a second consecutive win over the Rampants.

The win put another punctuation mark on how dangerous DHC (6-2, 4-0 Eastern Carolina)…


October 21, 2018

Pitt County had a strong show­ing at the NCHSAA 3-A girls’ ten­nis re­gional at N.C. Wes­leyan Col­lege this week­end, high­lighted by a J.H. Rose tan­dem tak­ing top hon­ors in dou­bles ac­tion.

Maryah Stokes and Ginger Evans won the…

2018 Doubles Championships (1).jpg

October 20, 2018

South Central continued its undefeated football season with a decisive victory over New Bern on Friday night, 52-8.

In their first game in two weeks, the Falcons dominated with their multifaceted run game and took advantage of the Bears’ offensive mistakes.

After a sloppy but uneventful first…


October 20, 2018

Four Pitt County high school volleyball programs are ready to make some noise in postseason play. J.H. Rose, D.H. Conley, South Central and Ayden-Grifton all are eyeing a state title this year after terrific regular seasons.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association plans to reveal the…


October 19, 2018

D.H. Conley bested rival J.H. Rose on the gridiron for the second straight year Friday night, 48-21, increasing their win streak to six straight in the process.

“This is an awesome feeling,” Conley head coach Nate Conner said. “The most important thing is that it puts us in a…


October 19, 2018

It’s time for another installment of one of the best rivalries in the state as D.H. Conley (5-2, 3-0) travels just under seven miles down the road to face J.H. Rose (5-2, 2-1) tonight in high school football action.

With two high-scoring offenses coming together it will be a shootout, and…


October 18, 2018

The Ayden-Grifton Chargers volleyball team celebrated senior night by defeating South Lenoir Wednesday to improve to 19-1 on the season.

The Chargers (11-0 in league play) won in straight sets, 25-13, 25-8 and 25-19.

The match marked the final time seniors Jordan Cannon, Zion Hardy and Kristen…

October 18, 2018

Zion Hardy, known by her teammates as “The Beast,” is one of three seniors on a Chargers volleyball roster that has only 10 players. Hardy spoke with preps Beat Writer Jake Keator after a 3-0 win on senior night about the Chargers season and winning back-to-back conference titles.



October 16, 2018

J.H. Rose put on a performance reminiscent of the beginning of its season with a 55-0 rout of Southern Wayne last Wednesday night. 

The game seemed to be a walk in the park for head coach Dave Wojtecki and Rose (5-2, 2-1), who held a comfortable 42-0 lead at halftime.

The Rampants switched up…

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