CHARLOTTE – There was a really good chance Myers Park’s Aaron Redfearn wasn’t going to go out for the wrestling team this winter.
He’s played on the Mustang rugby, football and wrestling teams since he got to Myers Park and last year, he’d had enough.
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After a 10-4 start to his wrestling season as a junior last year, Redfearn walked away from the team.
He and last year’s head coach didn’t always see eye to eye, and he felt like his body needed a rest from the athletics that he loved so much.
“I was done with everything,” he said. “I took a break from sports and everything, really. I’ve been playing sports since I was 7 years old, and my body needed time to heal. I was getting injured very easily, and I wanted to have a strong senior year. Plus me and the coach didn’t get along all that well. At first, I wasn’t going to wrestle at all this year.”
Redfearn learned the old coach wasn’t coming back and one of his former assistants, Michael Selan, was returning from Florida to take the job a week or so before school was to start so Redfearn decided to give it another shot for his senior year.
Wrestling at 220 pounds, Redfearn had a great season in which he finished up 51-6.
He had some tough times, like at Holy Angels, one of Charlotte’s biggest tournaments, when Redfearn fared poorly.
“I wasn’t ready for that,” he said of the tournament. “I wasn’t mentally prepared for that like I needed to be and I did really bad.”
At the Southwestern 4A conference tournament final, Redfearn was stopped 4-2 in the ultimate tiebreaker by Porter Ridge’s Noah Carnes.
That’s when his focus started to shift.
“JV season was over, so the coaches had more time to focus on us individually,” Redfearn said. “Coach Selan helped me with basic stuff. We didn’t go over anything new, he wanted me to perfect the moves that I know.”
That tactic worked as Redfearn swept through the Western Regional, winning all three of his matches by pins and within the first period.
Going into the state meet, Selan was confident Redfearn was prepared. But, with Myers Park not having had a state champion since 1997, when Selan was 6 years old, he wasn’t thinking that Redfearn could win the school’s first title in nearly 25 years.
Most wrestlers’ first trip to states is nerve-wracking and it was the same for Redfearn as he walked into the packed coliseum.
“It was overwhelming,” he said. “I got mad butterflies in my stomach.”
But with the 220 weight class having to wait about two hours to wrestle, Redfearn found time to curl up and take a quick nap before winning his first match by decision.
That was the calmness that made Selan believe maybe this was going to be a special tournament, especially after Redfearn won his next two matches by decision to get to the finals against Cary’s Rylan Vann.
Vann had Redfearn beat, but in the final 10 seconds, he let up just for a second.
As the seconds ticked down, Redfearn says he heard his coaches tell him to go for it and leave everything on the mat.
In video from the state final, Redfearn looks at the clock, takes a deep breath and goes under Vann, taking him down to the mat.
As he jockeys for position, Redfearn gets his shoulders to the mat just as time expires for a dramatic 6-5 decision.
“He seemed to have the right motivation going into it,” Selan said. “I thought he had a great chance to have a good season record-wise, but I probably believed he had a chance to win with one second left in the championship match. It’s not that I didn’t think he had a chance, but his story, from relative unknown is crazy. He had a pretty good season record-wise, but he’d gone from never winning a tournament to winning seven straight matches, a regional championship and a state championship. That’s pretty awesome.”
Redfearn said he wasn’t sure at first he’d won, because the score had been incorrectly kept during the match. But when his coaches started jumping for joy, he knew he’d won it and made history.Redfearn said his championship, and its depth, definitely set in the next day at school when friends, classmates and teachers congratulated him.
For Selan, it was a defining moment for a program he’s trying to change for the better.
“If he had waited one second later in the final, he might not have gotten the swipes needed for back points, but in a few more seconds, he probably would have pinned the guy, so his timing was awesome,” Salen said. “As soon as they changed the score, it took me a few minutes for it to set in exactly what it meant. I was so proud of him and I’m so happy that he came in with the right mindset. To go in and win four tough matches like he did is incredibly difficult, but it says a lot about him and his character and especially in that championship match. He did a great job all week of listening and he took his shots. It was so great to see that personal accomplishment. He was in tears, and it was a big moment for all of us.”
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