CORNELIUS – Hough High wrestling coach Tripp Rogers measures effort more than a wrestler’s record.
“You’re expected to compete hard,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the wins and losses. I never get mad at them because they lost. I get mad if they lost, or even if they won and didn’t give full effort. You get yelled out more if you pin a kid and were lazy and didn’t try very hard. Effort is what builds teams. Effort is what wins championships.”
This season, Hough’s effort is building plenty of contenders, both individually and collectively.
The Huskies are 19-1 in dual matches, where both teams pit a wrestler against each other in 14 different weight classes. They went 5-0 to win the Husky Duals meet for the second straight year Jan. 11. Hough beat Northwest Guilford 39-34 in the final and Byrnes (S.C.) 47-27 in the semifinals, after opening with lopsided victories against Olympic (51-26), Marion, Va. (72-6) and Woodmont, S.C. (62-15).
“We’re a little more even than we were last year, when we had six or seven head-and-shoulders above everyone,” Rogers said. “Now we’re more solid throughout the lineup and tougher to beat in dual meet.”
The state individual rankings are littered with Hough wrestlers. Jordan Thompson, a junior, is No. 2 in the Class 4A 170-pound division. He has a 25-1 record and has pinned 18 opponents. He had four pins in less than 90 seconds at last weekend’s tournament.
Austin Powell, a junior, is No. 2 statewide in the 4A 113-pound division. He’s 27-3 with 13 pins. Sebastian Barreto, senior, is 30-2 with 17 pins. He is ranked No. 6 in the state 4A 182-pound division. Last weekend, he had lightning-quick pins in 44, 38 and nine seconds.
Connor Brooks, a senior in the heavyweight division, is 26-6 with 15 pins.
Jacob Efird, a senior, is 20-3 with 16 pins in the 152-pound division. He is No. 6 statewide. Efird was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Husky Duals. A week earlier, despite throwing up during and after matches and catching naps when he could, he battled the flu to reach the finals at the Holy Angels Invitational.
Barreto said he took “a hard loss” a couple weeks ago, his lone blemish this season. He added extra workouts on a field behind the school gym. He’ll run or lift massive tires for inspiration.
“I do extra work to make sure my mind’s right,” Barreto said. “It’s not really a physical thing, it’s more mental for me.”
The results were immediate. Barreto said his endurance improved, which helped him “feel stronger” in the Holy Angels tournament. He missed the regional tournament and fourth-round of the dual-team playoffs last season when he fractured an orbital bone in his face and suffered a concussion in a car accident.
Thompson, who is Barreto’s drilling partner, also has made a comeback from injury. He missed last season because of a concussion during football season. He and Barreto have combined for a 55-3 record this season.
Efird, who has qualified for the state tournament the past three seasons, is primed to compete for a state title. As a senior, he wants to set a tone for the underclassmen.
“Last year’s seniors worked hard and set a good example,” Efird said. “This year, me and Sebastian, Connor and some others trying to set a good example.”
Efird, and all the Huskies, know there’ll be a price to pay if they don’t work hard.
“Coach (Rogers) gets mad when you’re not wrestling at your full potential or going as hard as you can go,” Efird said. “You have to wrestle tough against everybody. Even the easy matches will help you because the more experience you get, the more you can improve.”