They are young, accomplished and hungry for a state championship. The top four returning wrestlers for the Mat Hawks are all ranked second in the state in their weight classes, have accomplished a lot in their young careers and are hungry for a team state title.
There is little doubt junior Shaquille Cox and sophomores Nick Paden, Bernard Ray and Drew Newberry will be relied upon to help this team win early and late.
“Nick, Shaq, Bernard and Drew will be important parts of this upcoming season,” said Mat Hawk head coach Gary Canter. “If this team is to accomplish what we want to accomplish, these four will have to be in our lineup and producing for us. I have a great amount of faith in all four of them.”
The present team has an individual career win total of 368. Paden, Cox, Ray and Newberry account for 294 of those wins. Paden has the most career wins on the team with 82. Newberry and Ray are second with 71.
The present team has an individual career pin total of 222.5. The four account for 130.5 of those pins. Newberry has more career pins than anyone else on the team with 46.5. Ray is second with 30.5 pins. Paden and Cox are tied in third with 26.5 pins.
Cox has led the team the past two seasons in takedowns with 249. Paden has been second both seasons with 188.
The only returning state medalists on this team are Paden, Cox, and Ray.
The only returning regional champions on this team are Paden, Ray and Newberry.
“I think Nick and Drew have basically been wrestling for us since birth and Bernard and Shaq have been since early in their middle school careers,” said Canter. “All four have had our philosophy beat into them and they are very team oriented and that is what you want in team leaders.”
Paden said his goal is to graduate with more than one team state championship.
“I would rather be a part of a state championship team and not medal individually at the state tournament than be an individual state champion on a non-state championship team,” said Paden. “All four of us, I believe, feel this way. All four of us are willing to sacrifice for the team. If we are needed to go up a weight class or cut weight for the team to be successful, we are willing to do it.”
“Our best teams have always had wrestlers willing to sacrifice for the team,” said Newberry. “I want to be on a great team and am willing to do what is necessary to win team state championships.”
“Winning and achieving starts with an attitude and a belief,” said Canter. “I have always said that some people may find that a bit cocky, but I have found that normally, cocky is what losers call winners. Time will tell if this team has the right to be as confident as they are right now.”
The Mat Hawks start the season this weekend as they travel to Oldham County for the super duals. Most likely, the Hawks will face sixth-ranked Woodford County and seventh-ranked Seneca.
“Tough way to start the season off,” said Canter. “But if you want to be the best, you have to face the best in the regular season to help prepare for the post season. As I have always said, we are only one injury or one bad break away from a long season. If we stay healthy, I like this team, but we have a long season to go.”