Charlotte Latin wrestlers are aware the history and tradition of the program. They can’t miss it.It’s written in silver inside the white circles on the blue wrestling mats in Latin’s wrestling room: the names of wrestlers who came before. The wrestlers who have led the Hawks to 15 state championships. “We’re wrestling on the names of our alumni,” said senior 138-pounder Charlie Horvath. “So many guys come back that we don’t even know but we already have a bond with them. They wear the same jackets as us. It’s just awesome knowing so much has gone into the program and we get to continue it.” The Charlotte Latin program continues this year with all but one of the wrestlers back from last year’s state championship team. The Hawks want another state championship, but they’re also aiming higher. “We’re really close to solidifying ourselves as one of the best teams in Charlotte and we haven’t done that in a while,” Horvath said. “And it’s a good feeling.”The Hawks won last year’s N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association state championship with just one senior wrestler (Luke Hedrick). They beat second place SouthLake Christian by seven points and had only one wrestler win an individual state championship (113-pound Billy McClelland). The team won the championship with depth. Five other wrestlers finished second in their weight classes and all 14 Latin wrestlers scored points in the championship tournament.“Placing is just big,” said head coach Richard Fletcher, who is in his 23rd year leading Latin wrestling. “There’s a lot of good wrestlers out there and only one of them is a champion at the end of the year. “If you lose, you’re coming back in consolation, scoring points in consolation and, you know, we win as a team. It’s an individual sport only on one level, but a state championship takes 14 wrestlers placing and scoring points.” The team didn’t take much of a break after the state championship before starting to get ready for this season. Just a few weeks after the season, many of the wrestlers were back in the weight room. Assistant coach David Paige leads the summer wrestling program, which includes up to five workouts a week. Many of the wrestlers also participate in individual tournaments to stay competitive during the off season. “We don’t really ever cool off from the sport,” said senior 170-pounder Alex Julian. “We come in strong. ... You can see that (the wrestlers) have that technique that you don’t usually see this early.” With so many returning wrestlers who have experience on the mat, Paige focused on toughness.“You have all the skills, you have all the technique that you need,” Fletcher said. “What’s going to win us matches this year is you being tougher physically than your opponents and being able to grind it out.” The Hawks challenged themselves with a tough early season schedule against larger public schools. Latin (8-3 through Dec. 6) beat Independence, Marvin Ridge and Weddington, among others. The team’s three losses were to Sun Valley, Parkland (three-time defending public 4A dual-team state champion) and Piedmont (2012 3A dual-team state champion).Julian compared the tough early season schedule to “swinging a baseball bat with a weight on it, then when you finally go out swinging” it’s easier. “They want to look around at wrestling tournaments and know they work as hard as anybody else and they want to earn that pride,” Fletcher said. “They may take losses, but they know they’ve wrestled the best ... I think it’s a point of pride with them that they’ve wrestled the best and that they’re able to compete on some levels coming from a very small school.” Charlotte Latin has three wrestlers ranked No. 1 by retrorankings.com in their respective private school weight classes: sophomore McClelland (113, though he is wrestling 126 this year), senior Matt Borin (145) and senior Sam Wilson (220). Five more are ranked No. 2: Horvath (126, but is wrestling 138 this year), sophomore Bentley Dalton (132), Julian (170), junior Zach Carter (195) and sophomore Toby Okwara (285). Junior Nick Boyd is ranked No. 4 in the 152-pound weight class and has shown a lot of improvement from last year, according to Fletcher. He’s started this season 12-2 in matches.Fletcher doesn’t want his team to take anything for granted after winning last year’s state championship. “We want to build a dynasty. That’s just one step,” he said. “If we take care of the work in here, the state championship will take care of itself.” A quote by Theodore Roosevelt, from his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech in Paris, is painted on the wall of the Latin wrestling room. “It is not the critic who counts,” the quote begins. “... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” Fletcher saw the quote on a plaque at a wrestling camp during his first year of coaching. The beginning of the quote is inscribed on each of the team’s state championship rings. Freshmen in the program must memorize the passage.Fletcher particularly likes the end of the quote: “... so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” “It’s woven in the fabric of the program,” he said. “This is the only sport where you go out there by yourself and perform against a solo opponent,” Fletcher said. “It’s one of the most gutsy things in life you will ever do.”
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012
Hawks wrestling upholds its rich tradition
Team’s stellar record includes 15 state championship wins
Charlotte Latin sophomore wrestler Billy McClelland, right, was the only Hawk to win an individual state championship last year. But all 14 wrestlers earned points for Latin, leading the team to a 15th state championship. Courtesy of Ellen Kazura
South Charlotte wrestlers to watch Billy McClelland, Charlotte Latin, Soph.: Was the only Hawk to win a state title as a freshman last year. Sam Wilson, Charlotte Latin, Sr.: Joined team late but has started 6-0 in the 220-pound weight class. Amit Naik, Providence Day, Sr.: Defending state champion and No. 1-ranked 120-pound private school wrestler. Chase Hayes, Charlotte Catholic, Sr.: Defending ME-GA 7 and West Region champion, ranked No. 1 among 3A 152-pound wrestlers. Demetree Hardison, Independence, Sr.: Senior is the No. 2 ranked 4A heavyweight wrestler and started 14-0.