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Patriots' wrestlers take on new coach, season

CONYERS - The Heritage wrestling team might have a new coach this year, but the goal of being one of the top teams in the area remains the same.

Randy Hooley takes over the reins at Heritage this year, and he has set his sights on making Heritage a powerhouse in Class AAAA.

"I'm kind of old school. I believe in hard work and going over the basics," he said. "Right now, I don't think it's important to know a ton of moves, but to know a few moves really well. As the year progresses, we'll put a little more advanced stuff in."

Heritage returns five starters from last year's team - Travis Wynne, Cody Shubert, John Wigington, Wade Powell and Cameron Macke.

Although a majority of the team is made up of younger wrestlers, Hooley said it should make for a talented mix on the mats.

"They're willing to work hard. So far, I've seen that they're willing to work and they're not scared of anybody," he said. "They're jelling as a team real well right now. Overcoming and limiting injuries will be big this year. We also have a very young team. Last time I looked, we only had five seniors and 13 freshmen."

Despite the obstacles that lay ahead, Hooley has set his goals high this season.

"I've heard some of the wrestlers say that they want to be competitive this year, but I don't set my goals that low. I feel that we're one of the top three or four teams in the area," Hooley said. "I want to get at least eight kids to the state tournament this year. We should also have some state placers or winners at state this year."

Hooley said the key to reaching those goals is hard work and dedication.

"They just need to continue doing what they're doing. They're learning a little bit more every day," he said. "They need to believe that they can do something. They're still high school kids, but once they see that they can do something, they'll achieve it. Believing in themselves is going to be a big thing. They don't need to get down after a loss. If they lose, they need to learn from it."

Hooley was the head coach at Edwards Middle School for the past three years. Before that, he was an assistant wrestling coach at Tift County High School. Hooley is an Indiana native. He attended Manchester College where he received All-American accolades.

Heritage's first action of the season came Wednesday at the Mohawk Invitational at North Cobb High School. The Patriots placed nine of 12 wrestlers in the tournament and finished fifth overall.

The Patriots hit the mats again today at the U.S. Army Invitational at Hiram High School.

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Team: Heritage wrestling team

Coach: Randy Hooley

Next match: Today at U.S. Army Invitational at Hiram High School