by Aaron Garcia
Charlotte Catholic sophomore Chase Hayes spent much of the year wrestling a class or two above his weight class, as many in his sport do, to prepare for the Class 3A state tournament. The thought behind such an approach is that after spending months facing bigger, stronger competition, a wrestler will be better prepared to face athletes his size once the state tournament rolls around.
Though Hayes took some losses this season, the approach worked. The sophomore won the 145-pound division at last month’s Class 3A Western Regional tournament after not even placing as a freshman. As a result, Hayes entered the state tournament as one of the top seeds – much to his surprise.
“I never thought I’d ever make it (to the finals),” he admitted. “I thought it would be two (losses) and (I’d be) out at states.”
Instead, Hayes downed Cox Mill’s Jonathan Hill, 10-2, to open the competition. He then pinned Hillsborough Orange’s J.D. Wynn in 4 minutes, 33 seconds. Next was Waxhaw Marvin Ridge senior Nate Mullins who, with a record of 46-0 at the time, was one of the state’s top 145-pounders. Hayes topped Mullins, 8-6 to advance to the state finals against Concord’s Nathanael Torrence. Though Torrence won 5-4, Hayes was the top-finishing public-school wrestler from south Charlotte. That, along with his regional title and overall season record of 45-7, earned Hayes the title of South Charlotte Weekly’s 2010-11 Wrestler of the Year.
The toughest thing, said Hayes, was dealing with the pressure surrounding a stage as big as the state tournament.
“Everyone makes it seem like it’s going to be really, really difficult and you’re going to have to wrestle incredible kids and stuff like that,” said Hayes. “I was pretty impressed with myself when I beat the first two (wrestlers). Then, when I won in the semifinals, I was really proud to be in the finals.”
Hayes said that while he regrets some of his regular-season losses, he was careful not to let them affect his confidence.
“I don’t have any nerves at that higher weight class,” he explained. “If I lose, so what? At least I’ve got the experience and I know what to work on.
“I can always go (to a) lower (weight class) and people are going to be weaker than me at the end of the season.”
Trust him – he knows from experience.