MOORESVILLE – Behind the strength of seven current senior starters and country music blaring at its practices, the Mooresville wrestling team is back steamrolling its opponents this season.
The reigning 4A individual state champions, the Blue Devils are 27-1 entering their Friday, Jan. 18, home match against I-Meck foe West Charlotte, and went 4-0 last weekend in a Union County tournament.
And with 2018 weight-class title-holders Isaac Shaw and Ike Byers back as seniors, their accomplishments have provided a benchmark for the rest of the team.
“The guys really feed off each other,” head coach Ben Watson said. “We’ve had an incoming freshman that’s not bad, and he’s feeding off their success.”
Shaw, a two-time state champion who will wrestle for N.C. State next year, is 35-0 in his final year. He’s earned first-place laurels at two of his favorite tournaments, the Tiger Classic in Chapel Hill and Charlotte’s Holy Angels.
Work ethic has been the key to staying on top of the 145-pound weight class.
“I just work harder than I’ve ever worked,” Shaw said. “You have a target on you. you know they’re out there trying to beat you, so just keep working hard.”
Byers, at 152 pounds, wants to show he’s not complacent with a single state championship to his name. He’s 28-3 with runner-up finishes in the Tiger Classic and Holy Angels.
“Some people might shy away, but it’s just more motivation to prove people wrong, to not to be a one-time person,” he said. “You just come out and push harder than expected. Just getting outside of the room. That’s my main thing. In practice, just doing the extra things. Instead of doing three reps, do four. If you’re outside the room, just bust it as much as possible before you even come in. Just keep your mind to stay as healthy as possible.”
Byers doesn’t wrestle year-round like Shaw; he plays cornerback for Thad Wells’ football team. But how Byers gets after it in the weight room has always impressed Watson.
“There’s not a kid I know that trains harder in the weight room or running than Ike Byers,” Watson said.
Watson, who has coached at Mooresville for 12 years and 20 overall, likes to have an unbalanced schedule. In December, he took his team to five tournaments, some of which spanned two days. But prior to the state dual tournament Jan. 29, the Blue Devils will only have four events this month.
“I try to make December real heavy loaded with tournaments and matches,” Watson said. “I think we wrestled close to 30 matches just in December, and in January we're doing like 11. I taper it down so we’re not competing as much and getting more time in the practice room.”
In the practice room his wrestlers hear the sounds of “Rowdy Friends” by Hank Williams Jr. and “Home” by Dierks Bentley. Shaw said he likes having the country music in the school’s wrestling room.
“I can’t really hear the music while we wrestle,” Byers said.
This time of year, with fewer matches also comes more repetitions instead of learning new moves or techniques.
“Just drilling every day, drilling the fundamentals every day,” Watson said. “Drilling until they get sick of it. Then do it some more, getting muscle memory learned.”
Mooresville will host the individual 4A Western Regionals Feb. 8 and 9. The top four from each weight class then advance to Greensboro, where the Blue Devils claimed team trophy last February.