Lake Norman & Mooresville

Honeycutt, Wildcats want to win more state titles

If you look at Harrison Honeycutt's records, you wouldn't think he had a lot left to prove.

The Lake Norman senior is a two-time defending state champion: the 3A 189-pound winner in 2009 and the 4A 215-pound champion last season. Neither weight class nor school classification has slowed Honeycutt on the mat.

"He's a special kind of kid," said Wildcats' coach Morgan Fore. "He's a phenomenal wrestler, he's got great balance, he hasn't been scored upon in two years. He's the best wrestler I've worked with at this age."

As a freshman, Honeycutt came in fifth at the state championships. However, he came back the next season, as a sophomore, to finish 53-0 for the year. Last season, he went 54-0, which puts him on a 107 consecutive-win streak coming into this season.

"He hates to lose," said Fore. "If someone gets up on him, no doubt he's going to come back."

In 2009, at the High School Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D., Honeycutt earned All-American status.

"Harrison kills everyone," said teammate Josh Smith. "He looks bored out there."

Honeycutt admits he doesn't care for losing, and he says he has had close calls.

"I've had tough matches," he said. "This kid I beat four times over the season almost beat me in the state finals. I can't stand it when it's close. I just have to put my head down and work hard."

It's no surprise that Honeycutt is ranked No. 1 in his weight class to begin the season, but so are the Wildcats, despite Winston-Salem's Parkland High being the defending state champions. It's the first time the Lake Norman team has been ranked that high.

The Wildcats finished last season fifth overall in the state as a team. Lake Norman had eight athletes qualify for states last season, with Honeycutt, Smith, and Cody Karns placing first, third and fourth respectively in their weight classes.

Seven of the qualifiers are back on the team this season, six of which - Ryan Renfroe, Nick Rodrigues, Mike Hayes, Smith, Collin Foster and Honeycutt - are seniors.

Fore said that being ranked so highly this season is a testament to the work the program and these wrestlers have put in the last few years.

They put in work this offseason. Karns, junior Patrick Devlin and sophomore Jackson Dallas competed at junior nationals. In June, the Wildcats went to Atlanta for the Militia Duals and finished sixth out of 37 teams competing, without Honeycutt wrestling. And at the N.C. Super 32 "Battle for the Belt," held Oct. 30-31, Smith competed in the 152-pound division and finished eight out of 132 wrestlers.

"We're really strong in the middle weights, right on up to the heavy divisions," said Fore. "I don't see any holes. Throughout the spring and summer they wrestle freestyle and Greco-Roman. These guys are just wrestlers."

Despite the high ranking, the Wildcats don't feel any added pressure this season.

"We don't have a target on our back," said Smith. "The returning state champions do; they feel more pressure than we do."

Still many Wildcats do feel a need to prove they deserve their current status.

"We waited for a long time to be recognized," said Rodrigues. "We're excited about the opportunity to prove ourselves. We're looking forward to it."

Renfroe agreed.

"We'll use it as fuel to work harder and prove the No. 1 ranking was correct," he said.

Smith, who has interest from schools like Appalachian State, Northern Illinois and UNC Greensboro, said the end of last season left a bad taste in his mouth; individually he has something to prove.

"I was a victim of bad luck," he said, "I want to 'make it ridiculous' this season. Just run away with the state title."

Honeycutt, who signed with N.C. State in mid-October, has changed his goals, slightly, this season.

"In my first years, I was more focused on myself," he said.

"This year, I'm more focused on the team. I want to get the team a state title more than I want to win."

Still, that doesn't mean he's taking a break.

"Every match I want to wrestle my best," said Honeycutt.

And whether he continues his winning streak, or the team lives up to their pre-season status, Fore's overall message has been the same.

"It doesn't matter who's first in October, it matters who's first at the end of February."