Small KF wrestling team preps for season

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, November 29, 2012

King's Fork junior Aaron Hommell (top) wrestles with sophomore Michael Lewis during practice on Thursday for the upcoming season.

The King’s Fork varsity wrestling team fought a David versus Goliath battle last year, and they are gearing up for another this season.

In wrestling, 14 weight classes must be filled in any given team event. If someone like King’s Fork head coach Brett Heberling does not have a wrestler to fill each class, the team gives up six points to opponents for each class that is forfeited. Last year, Heberling only had enough kids to fill eight slots.

“And we still had five wins, which is pretty good for a team where you’re starting off losing by 36 points,” Heberling said.

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This year, Heberling estimated the number of wrestlers he would be able to field in team events.

“Honestly, maybe seven, if I can get guys consistent,” he said. “I’m going to have to be putting a lot of first year kids in the lineup.”

Graduation was hard on the squad, claiming five regional qualifiers. One of them was Matt Hommell, who was also the school’s first-ever state qualifier.

Heberling, in his sixth year, has also coached Hommell’s older brother David, who now serves as volunteer coach on the staff.

“And then I have the youngest boy, Aaron Hommell, who’s a junior this year,” Heberling said. “So, he’s one of my three quality returners.”

Heberling particularly highlighted returning standout junior Austin Wall.

“Austin will be my 138-pounder, so he’ll be my best guy,” he said.

“I think his overall record is 48-8,” he said. “I’m hoping I can keep him on pace for the school’s first-ever 100-career win (total).”

Wall’s younger brother, Bailey, completes the trio of returners Heberling referenced.

“Bailey’s going to be my 126-pounder,” he said. “He’s a scrappy kid.”

The team will include one more athlete who has wrestled before.

“Mike Lewis is a transfer,” Heberling said. “He just moved here this year from Baltimore. He’s got some wrestling experience. I think he’s got a year behind him.”

“Everybody else is essentially brand new,” he said. “They’ve been on the wrestling mat for three weeks now. That’s it. So, a learning process for them.”

When describing the team’s biggest challenge this season, the subject begins and ends with the small team that leads to forfeiture.

“When I make the schedule I do a lot of individual events, because team-wise, it’s very discouraging for the kids if they look up and they see that they’re losing,” Heberling said. “It’s hard for them to grasp the concept that, ‘You know what? We’re starting off (down) 36-0.’”

Heberling feels that the appeal of basketball at a school that recently won a state championship, along with his sense that this is not an area where wrestling is particularly popular, both factor into the lack of interest in the sport.

He hopes that starting a youth program can enable the school to develop more interest and strong wrestlers like the Chesapeake schools where kids begin in elementary school.

“A dozen kids filling your entire team, (junior varsity) and varsity, makes it a little hard. But you know what, it’s an individual sport, so the kids that go out there, they’ll be ready to go and they’ll be ready to fight and scrap.”

The Bulldogs will be at Cosby High School in Midlothian on Dec. 8 for a 12-man individual event. For the first scheduled district team event, they host Oscar Smith and Western Branch on Dec. 12.