KFHS wrestling begins to fill out

Published 8:05 pm Thursday, December 5, 2013

King’s Fork High School junior Bailey Wall, top, is expected be one of the standouts on the mat for the Bulldogs this year.

King’s Fork High School junior Bailey Wall, top, is expected be one of the standouts on the mat for the Bulldogs this year.

An experienced core could provide some school history-making highlights for the wrestling team at King’s Fork High School, while expanded involvement from newcomers to the sport will help fill most of the lineup.

Last year, head coach Brett Heberling was forced to focus on individual wins from his wrestlers as opposed to team victories because he lacked the numbers to fill the weight classes and avoid forfeits.

Giving up 30 to 36 points because of five to six empty slots is something the Bulldogs will not have to worry about this year.

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“All of a sudden, I had these kids showing up at the door,” Heberling said.

Once they get their weights aligned with the appropriate class and injuries healed up, King’s Fork should only have two holes in the line-up, 106 and 220 pounds.

The team loses only two contributing wrestlers from last year. Mike Lewis, a 182-pounder, transferred to Booker T. Washington High School, and 220-pounder Tyler Larry graduated.

Four starters return from last year’s team and are expected to be standouts.

Fresh off football heroics as a kicker, senior Austin Wall will return to the mat after a knee injury has prevented him from wrestling since last Christmas.

“He’s been non-stop texting me and calling me over the summer and during football season saying he can’t wait to get back to wrestling,” Heberling said.

Wall will compete in the 145-pound class and is 44 wins away from becoming the first King’s Fork wrestler to achieve 100 career wins. “I’m expecting him to do pretty good,” Heberling said.

With the benefit of a full junior year, senior 160-pounder Aaron Hommell is 38 wins shy of the 100-win mark. He was the most successful wrestler on the 2012-13 team, competing at the regional level and finishing one match short of qualifying for states.

“He’s a very talented kid, and he’s a hard worker,” Heberling said. “He’s got that itching for the wrestling mat.”

However, his participation will be delayed for at least two weeks after a freak accident during pre-season conditioning resulted in a fractured thumb.

Heberling has high expectations for both of these wrestlers, who have been with him since they were eighth-graders.

“I want to see them make it to states,” he said, and he wants them to place.

Wall’s brother, junior Bailey Wall, is a returning starter and will compete at 138 pounds.

Heberling praised him for his talent. “He’s one of those scrappy-type wrestlers,” he said. “He likes to get in there and get physical.”

Sophomore Andy Hall also started last year and will roll at 120 pounds.

“I’m liking what I’m seeing out of Andy Hall,” Heberling said. “He’s getting better, he’s picking things up, he’s moving along.”

Heberling has confidence Bailey Wall and Hall can qualify for regionals.

Among the participants brand new to the sport are two varsity football players, freshman Travius Cheeks and senior Tre’onte Beale. With last Friday’s conclusion to the football season, they have had precious little time to prepare, but have been working hard.

Cheeks, in the heavyweight class, was “picking things up pretty quickly on Monday and Tuesday,” Heberling said. “Depending on how things go, we might put him in the lineup Saturday.”

The coach has also been teaching the sport to Beale, a 195-pounder, and acknowledged some key basic ingredients he has working for him.

“He wants to try,” Heberling said. “He’s a real strong kid and pretty athletic.”

Freshman Jackson Stone moved to Suffolk from Georgia and will compete at the 113-pound level this Saturday, before likely moving down to 106 pounds.

Heberling expects the biggest challenge for his inexperienced wrestlers to be understanding and accepting the sport.

“A lot of times it’s difficult for kids to go out there and realize everything is on them,” he said, especially for those who are coming into the game late.

He added they need to be ready to take their lumps early, so they can learn from them and improve.

King’s Fork will host an invitational on Saturday called the Battleground Duals, including the Bulldogs, Nansemond River High School, Lakeland High School, Manchester High School, Nandua High School and Essex High School. It starts at 9 a.m.