CHARLOTTE – This is it for Charlotte Catholic senior wrestler Kurt Hayes.
Grappling in college isn’t something that he’s all that interested in, but he’s also having a senior season to remember and it’s not by coincidence.
Hayes, whose brother Chase was a 2012 state champion with the Cougars, is honest about his aspirations. He is a high school senior who’s ready to get to college and is taking all of the right steps socially.
He’s also dominating on the mat, already a champion of the prestigious Jim Hayes Invitational last month and off to a 17-0 start to begin the year, a mark that puts him among the best of any southern Mecklenburg County wrestler.
“Both of my brothers wrestled and my dad did it, too, so it’s in the family,” he said. “I’ve been drilling with my brother a lot. He gives me a lot of one-on-one help. He’s super knowledgeable and a great partner to work with. We’re always looking at tape of college wrestlers and trying to incorporate into the practices.”
They concentrate on working out of the neutral position, with repetition serving as the key.
The training has worked.
But at 195 pounds, Hayes has his work cut out for him.
Last season, he placed seventh in the state last year and third in the region after posting a 30-6 record.
Now, with his last hurrah, Hayes is hoping to significantly improve those standings before he walks away from the mat for good.
“My goal is to win states,” he said. “There is one really good kid who is my competition from Weddington (Joe Zovistoski, who is 11-1 at 182 pounds this season). We’re pretty neck and neck so we’ll see.
“I have to give it everything that I’ve got at this point. I’m not going to have too many more chances. There really hasn’t been any pressure up to this point because there’s always been next year. Well, this is next year. This is it, and I’m more motivated for my senior year.”
Hayes is one of the area’s top wrestlers and a legitimate threat to win the 3A title. Below is a school-by-school look at who else is off to a great start.
Editor’s note: All records were posted through Jan. 3 according to Track wrestling.com.
• Ardrey Kell is led by senior Anthony Farrand, who is 14-2 at 145 pounds, but the Knights have gotten strong seasons from Cameron Parker (16-7 at 113), Cooper Marshall (14-8 at 138) and Gaetano Verni (13-5 at 120).
• Butler freshman Jordan Strayhorn has opened his season with a 10-1 mark at 106 pounds to lead the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, John Radey (12-5 at 170 pounds), Mason Jaeger (11-5 at 285), Alexis Galicia-Reyes (13-6 at 182) and Anteieu Rmuah (11-7 at 145) have started the season well in their own right.
• Charlotte Catholic’s Kurt Hayes is off to an unbeaten 17-0 start at 195 pounds to lead the Cougars, who are also getting solid matches from Joseph Baisley (10-1 at 113), Jacob Fitzgerald (10-6 at 170) and Kai Stuppnig (7-1 at 285).
• Andrew Barnett (27-4 at 152 pounds) is leading the way for Charlotte Christian, but he has plenty of help with Gunnar Betzold (21-7, 120 pounds); Sam Smitherman (18-8 at 132); Hudson Jones (16-2 at 285); and Zane Rutledge (16-8 at 145) also starting the season well.
• Country Day is led by freshman Dillon Kercher, who has posted a 20-1 record at 126 pounds. Will Kercher has posted a 17-2 record at 126 pounds while freshmen Myers Gaskin, Sailor Whitehead and Derrick Boskie all have double figures in wins already.
• Myers Park hasn’t wrestled many matches, but 220-pound senior Aaron Redfearn is 12-1 and the top guy. Patrick Schellpfeffer, Taylor Fleeman, William Lowery and Eduard Bagarean each have five or more wins so far.
• Junior William Cline leads Providence in wins with his 16-3 record at 126 pounds, but the Panthers have freshman Noah Luna (15-3 at 113), Amin Bakhtiari (15-6 at 126), Matthew Timmerman (12-9 at 158) and Noah Rupp (9-2 at 170) also having great beginnings.
• Providence Day has gotten strong starts from Ford Burkholder (10-2 at 182 pounds) and Jackson Concannon (8-2 at 285) to lead the way. The Chargers have also gotten nice starts from freshman Pearce Phillips (13-4 at 113), Nathaniel Insko (13-6 at 145) and Caden Hagler (11-4 at 120).
• South Meck has a very small sampling size, but has good starts from Joey Gonzalez (3-0 at 220 pounds), Kyle Sanders (4-1 at 126) and Benjamin Foesch (4-2 at 182).