Here is an early look at a story that will be in Sunday’s paper and was written by correspondent Jason Gilmer.
HENDERSONVILLE – When the North Henderson Knights decided on team goals earlier this season, no one mentioned breaking a record.
The wrestling team executed a takedown of a short-lived mark over the weekend as it notched its 23rd team win. The previous school record for duals wins (22) was set in 2012.
The Knights improved to 25-4 overall and 6-0 in the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference with Thursday’s 60-18 victory over East Henderson.
“We’ve had a very strong tradition here,” coach Heang Uy said, “and we’re trying to continue what a lot of people have built over the years here.”
Uy has helped blaze a winning trail at the school, as he’s been the head coach for 15 seasons. In that time, the Knights have won four conference titles and reached the regional finals in the postseason.
The Knights were at the Rams Duals tournament at Roberson on Saturday when they topped the school record. Uy didn’t want to jinx his team though he knew how close they were to the mark.
“No one knew they had broken the record, so they were excited about it,” the coach said.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised (by our season). It is definitely better than I expected,” said 138-pounder Pete Willingham. “We have a lot of talent on the team, good kids with big hearts who are willing to put in the time to get better.”
“We were going into the season thinking we would have a good team,” said 220-pounder Caledonio Cardenas, “and we had some high expectations.”
The Knights are winning with a mix of youth and experience. North Henderson has six wrestlers who are big scorers as underclassmen. Freshmen Josh Blatt (ranked No. 2 in 3A at 106 pounds), Morgan King (No. 7 at 113) and sophomores Paul Searcy (No. 4 at 145) and Will Baldwin (No. 7 at 138) are all ranked in the top-10 by RetroRankings.com. Cardenas (No. 7 in his weight class) is the only upperclassman ranked for the Knights.
Uy said it isn’t nerve-wracking having so many underclassmen in the mix, but exciting to see them step up.
“They are really hungry,” Uy said. “They have an energy and fire that we haven’t seen and it helps that we’re a really young team. We’re leaning on a lot of underclassmen and they’ve stepped up. We’ve got that youthful enthusiasm that is fun to coach.”
Searcy has posted a 41-1 mark this season while Blatt is 37-2, Baldwin is 28-4 and King is 22-3. Senior Brandon Johnson has an 18-3 record.
His former assistant coach, John Williams, is now the head coach at Apple Valley Middle School and has helped prepare these youngsters for their roles.
“I anticipated them contributing to a degree, but the level that they have wrestled at has surprised me,” Uy said. “I thought we could be a very competitive team and we created a schedule that reflected that, trying to find some challenging competition.”