HENDERSONVILLE – Josh Blatt knows this year will be tougher than last year.
He made last year look easy.
As a freshman at North Henderson, the 106-pounder went undefeated against in-state competition, won a NCHSAA 3-A state title and compiled a 51-2 record.
“I see it as there is a target on my back,” he said. “Some people will be afraid, but the ones who aren’t will come after me and give me their best match. I have to wrestle the way I did last year: keep it technical and simple.”
Blatt will move up a weight class, to 113 pounds, and spent the summer putting on healthy pounds as he watched what he ate.
He wrestled in tournaments in the high school offseason at the higher weight class.
“For a sophomore, Josh is a very seasoned wrestler,” Knights coach Heang Uy said. “He knows what he’s getting into. He’s always getting mat time and finding the best wrestlers in the country to compete against.”
After his state championship, Blatt competed in the National High School Coaches Association championships. He lost 8-5 in the finals to a wrestler from Pennsylvania at the event in Virginia Beach, Va.
He was happy, though, with how last season shaped up.
“I was upset (by the losses),” he said. “At the end of the day it’s two losses. I’d rather have two losses than 10.”
Since practice began at the beginning of the month Blatt has been in the wrestling room ready to help make his teammates better.
“When you win state as a freshman, it’s hard to top that,” Uy said. “He understands he has high expectations and people understand he’s a state champ and will be coming after him. He doesn’t need me to tell him that.
“One of the things I expect him to do is step up and be a leader for us. He’s already doing that. On the mat I expect him to set the tone and help us be successful as the season. Fortunately for us, he doesn’t have to do it by himself.”
The Knights return three other wrestlers who placed at the state meet last season — Will Baldwin (fourth place, 138), Morgan King (fifth, 113) and Paul Searcy (third, 145).
The goal for the team is to again be one of the state’s top programs and hopefully eclipse last year’s runner-up accomplishment at the NCHSAA 3-A individual tournament.
Three starters in the upper weight classes graduated and the Knights must replace those spots.
“I think we know we have the potential to build on a great season from last year and we’re really excited,” Uy said. “One of our goals is to finish high at the state tournament, but we have a lot of work to do before then.”