As a relatively new program that's still trying to gain some traction, Hickory Ridge's wrestling team may have found some pioneers in a couple of young upstarts.
Sophomores Troy Gregor and Austin Helm have dedicated themselves to the sport year-round, hoping to set an example for teammates on how important training is to becoming an elite wrestler.
Following a 12-month period of workouts and mat time, Gregor and Helm were named team captains for the 2011-12 season. They hope they can lead the Ragin' Bulls to as much team success as they have had as individuals.
This season, Gregor had compiled a 11-0 record at 113 pounds through Dec. 4. His wrestling room drill partner, Helm, has earned 12 wins in 15 matches.
Six of Gregor's victories have come by pin and two by forfeit. He missed a dual-team tournament at North Mecklenburg where Helm picked up a few more matches.
Seven of Helm's wins have been by pin, and two others were major decisions. Two of his losses have been to opponents from 4A schools.
Gregor and Helm have little immunity to the wrestling bug. Helm's father, Patrick Helm, is the Hickory Ridge wrestling coach. Shawn Gregor, Troy's father, leads an established AAU program in Harrisburg named the Mat Maniacs.
At the encouragement of his father, Troy Gregor started AAU wrestling when he was 9 years old, before Shawn Gregor became the Mat Maniacs' leader. With each little success he had, Troy started to set goals. By the time he reached middle school he was excelling in the sport.
Getting started as a seventh-grader at Northwest Cabarrus Middle, Austin Helm considered himself late to the game. He, too, became a conference champion as an eighth-grader but began taking the sport more seriously after his freshman year at Hickory Ridge.
That is when, and where, Helm and Gregor became wrestling soul mates.
Competing at 103 pounds, Gregor remained undefeated through the regular season and regional tournaments. In the process he became the first conference and regional champion in Hickory Ridge's history.
Gregor qualified for the state meet and finished with a 40-2 overall record. That inspired Helm, whose season ended at the regional tournament with a 26-11 mark.
"All his achievements, they made me feel I want to be up there with him," said Helm. "I don't want him being the only one representing our school."
At the conclusion of the 2010-11 campaign, Gregor and Helm dove right into the AAU season.
This fall, Gregor and Helm became members of Hickory Ridge's cross country team. While they gave it their all, their participation was just another way to condition themselves for wrestling.