CONYERS - Heritage wrestling coach Randy Hooley was pleased with the results of his first season at the helm of the Patriots.
"It was a good season for the program. We had our highs and lows throughout the year, but that is expected with a fairly young and aggressive team," he said. "We finished the dual season up with a 31-7 record, which consisted of three losses to the traditional state champion Eastside Eagles.
"The wrestlers learned what to expect out of me and how committed I am to making this program a very competitive one. We wrestled all over the state from Hiram to Valdosta. We had six (wrestlers) qualify for the state tournament, which was an accomplishment coming out of the toughest region in the state for AAAA."
The Patriots lost six wrestlers to graduation, including John Wigington, who set the school record for wins in a season with 65 this winter. Travis Wynne and Wade Powell are two other key losses for Heritage.
"This year's group (of seniors) has never had consistency with the coaching since they entered high school. This senior group had three different head coaches in their four years in high school," Hooley said. "The biggest loss, however, will be John Wigington at 160 pounds. John ended up with a record of 65-12. He wrestled every night the team wrestled, whether he was hurt or not. His presence will be missed."
Next season, the Patriots will have three state qualifiers returning in Cody Shubert (112 pounds), Steve Crawley (119 pounds) and Erik Lauritsen (130 pounds).
"We have many key wrestlers returning next year. For starters, we will have three state qualifiers back in action," Hooley said. "Our other key returning wrestlers will be Billy Abrahamsen, Nathanal Albers, David Plunkett, Michael Alfano, Austin Heath, Travis Martin and Abe Williams."
During the offseason, Hooley is stressing one thing to his squad - mat time.
"There is no substitute for mat time. It really comes down to who has the most experience on the mat," he said. "As a team, we are going to Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., for team camp in July. We attended last year and came back with more knowledge than we went with. Our wrestlers are going to many different individual camps to help them grow in the sport."
For next season, Hooley has set some pretty lofty goals for his squad.
"I tell my teams every year that I set high goals. The ultimate goal is always the same - to win area and make a surge at the state tournament," he said. "The guys were told at the banquet to make a program successful we must constantly be growing. We will again wrestle a very tough schedule, but that is the best way to prepare a team for the tournaments.
"The team has made the goals of qualifying for the state team duals, winning the area tournament and placing in the top for the state tournaments."