CONYERS - The Heritage wrestling squad is off to a quick start.
After cruising to a first-place finish during the Patriot Rumble Duals over the Thanksgiving break, the Patriots have won six dual meets to start the season.
Even more impressive, the wins come despite having a much younger group comprised of several freshmen starters.
"Considering I have a mixed lineup, it looks good just as long as we can keep the kids focused," Heritage coach Randy Hooley said earlier this season.
Hooley, who enters his second year as head coach, led the Patriots to an impressive 31-7 dual season in his rookie campaign. Of those seven losses, three came at the hands of traditional state champion Eastside.
Heritage's biggest loss is John Wigington (graduation), who had a school-record 65 wins last year.
Nevertheless, the Patriots are led by a strong senior class that includes Cody Shubert (119 pounds) Steven Crawley (125), Michael Alfano (152), Austin Heath (140) and David Plunkett (160).
"I am very proud of how the team is working," Hooley said. "The upperclassmen on this team are very helpful to the younger wrestlers. They are not afraid to encourage them when they are down about losing a match."
Heritage's other top wrestlers include Austin Boozer (103) and Billy Abrahamsen (122).
Rounding out the squad are Joel Maldonado (103), Zach Walker (130), Erik Lauritsen (135), Abe Williams (189) and Dalton Heath (275).
Shubert, Crawley and Lauritsen each return as state qualifiers.
"They are acting as a family unit," Hooley said. "I told them last year the difference of them being a good team and a great team was how the team supported each other. This group has really taken this to heart."
Heritage will next visit McIntosh at 5 p.m. Friday during South Metro action.
SideBar: At a glance
Team: Heritage wrestling
Coach: Randy Hooley (second year)
Key returning wrestlers: Cody Shubert, Steven Crawley, Michael Alfano, Austin Heath and David Plunkett
Next match: Friday through Saturday at South Metro Tournament