By RYAN HERMAN
Having wrestled for only a few months of his life, simply qualifying for the state individual tournament last year as a freshman wasn’t good enough.
To Lincolnton High sophomore Nick Hatchett, winning is everything.
Hatchett, in only his second season of competitive, organized wrestling, is using the experience gained at last season’s NCHSAA state individual tournament to turn in one of Lincolnton’s best individual seasons thus far.
Hatchett is currently 17-8 on the year, and is ranked ninth in the state in the 195-pound weight class among 2A competitors according to the wrestling website RetroRankings.com.
His season –– just his second full season wrestling after having no previous experience before high school, he said –– has been all about taking what he learned at the state championships after going 0-2.
“It was a learning experience as a freshman. It was hard, there’s a lot of competition at the state level,” said Hatchett, who finished fourth in the region last year. “They motivated me to get better, and to come back the next three years and hopefully make it farther this year.”
Perhaps the most impressive detail about Hatchett’s run to the state championships is the fact he wrestled in a weight class roughly 20 pounds heavier than he actually was.
The weight difference caught up to him in the end, but was nothing more than motivation for the year.
“I had to do what I had to do to get a starting position, so I moved up and did what I could do,” Hatchett said.
This year, the sophomore is still catching eyes, including sixth-year Wolves coach Brent Gates.
Gates said he still finds himself impressed with Hatchett, given how inexperienced he his in a sport most gifted wrestlers take up when they’re in elementary school.
Gates said his super sophomore has won some matches he shouldn’t have based on skill level, and Hatchett’s win-or-lose-trying attitude has had a lot to do with that.
“He beat some guys that he probably shouldn’t have beat, but he beat them because he doesn’t know how to quit,” Gates said. “He beats guys that have wrestled since they were 6-years-old and he’s still learning. That’s what’s scary. He does stuff you can’t teach.”
What he is able to teach is a winning attitude.
Hatchett, an all-county and all-conference wide receiver on Lincolnton’s football team, was a big part of the Wolves’ offense this season as they turned things around following an ugly start to reach the third round of the state 2A playoffs.
Including his wrestling state championship appearance as a freshman, all Hatchett has done at Lincolnton is win.
“How you do depends on how hard you work. I like to think of myself as a hard worker so I can be pretty successful,” he said.
The Wolves will take part in a three-team match tonight with Bunker Hill at Cherryville, three nights after losing a 37-36 heartbreaker at Bandys.
Hatchett said he’s been pushing his teammates in practice the last two days in hopes that the one match-deciding pin that happened at Bandys doesn’t happen again.
“In practice we push each other to get better,” Hatchett said. “(If) nobody’s behind you pushing you to get better, you’re not going to get better. If somebody’s behind you pushing you, you’re going to get better.
“I push people to get better. It’s a good experience to go to state and experience everything there, experience the competition. I wish everybody could experience it, so I push everybody.”
And in the end, you have to want it bad enough.
“It’s you against the other person; whoever can last longer, who’s worked harder. It’s you versus your will, you’re willpower,” Hatchett said.
“Winning is personality. … It’s a mental thing. You’ve got to want to win.”