Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
WAKE FOREST - Heritage's wrestling team ended the regular season just how they wanted to with a 45-31 victory at home Wednesday Jan. 29.
Not too long ago, Wake Forest dominated Heritage on the mat every season. For the second year in a row, the Huskies came out on top and finished second in the NAC 6 conference behind Corinth Holders. That earned them a spot in the 4A state playoffs.
Heritage head coach Thomas Durham said the secret to beating Wake Forest in back-to-back seasons has been the depth of his team.
"We have four starters out of our line-up right now and I told the team that they need to grow up," Durham said. "We knew tonight was going to be a close match. The guys stepped up. Guys not getting pinned was the key tonight. Everyone did a great job."
The Huskies honored their seniors as they took the mat for the last time in the regular season. The only senior who competed for Heritage was Ryan Handibode. Alex Chester, who boasts an overall record of 117-46, was out with an injury.
In the 126-pound match, Handibode pinned Wake Forest's Miguel Maiella in the second period. That improved the senior's overall record to 57-79 for his high school career.
"If you look at Ryan's overall record, it's not that impressive, but he was always fed to the wolves," Durham said. "As a senior this year, he has really stepped it up. He has wrestled from 138 pounds all the way to 126 pounds. He's a quiet leader. I didn't know if Ryan was going to get the job done tonight, but he secured it with a win."
The biggest match of the night came down to the 220-pound bout. Heritage's Zach Steamer went up against Wake Forest's Bennett Moore. Heritage held a 33-31 lead at that point.
Steamer pinned Moore in the third period to give the Huskies six points and helped his squad earn the win over their rival. Myron Burt added the cherry on top for Heritage by pinning Wake Forest's Cole Sutphen in the 285-pound match to end the night on a high note.
"It's been a huge journey for these guys from the beginning of the season," Durham said. "Coming into this season, I didn't know what we were going to do. This win secures a state playoff spot for our team. We have a lot of first-year wrestlers on the team. For them to step it up this year was huge for us."
Now that the regular season is over, Heritage can focus on advancing through the postseason as a team. Durham said in order for his program to reach new heights this year, they have to believe in themselves.
"I told the guys that when you step out onto the mat, you're not just representing Heritage, but you're representing yourself," Durham said. "If you can't wrestle hard for the school, you better wrestle hard for your family. I think the guys know that and that's what's going to keep us going moving forward."