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Warrior Run's Eric Hunt poised for bright future
February 23, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
Eric Hunt and I have a history that lasts all of about 2 minutes, 55 seconds, the time it took for him to answer a few questions I had following the District 4 East-Central Sectional tournament.
But I feel like I have a good idea about the Warrior Run freshman. I’ve learned what I need to know about him by the way his teammates react when his name is brought up, by the way he handled himself when he lost his spot in the starting lineup, and by the way he handled himself when taken out of his element to compete in last weekend’s sectional tournament.
Eric Hunt may be one of the small percentage of lightweight wrestlers truly affected by the offseason change in weight classes. He weighed in Saturday at 102 pounds, and that was after spending a week eating whatever he could to try and gain weight. He would have fit perfectly into the previous 103-pound weight class, but was going to spend the entire season as a undersized wrestler in the new 106-pound weight class.
Despite that, Hunt managed a 20-4 regular season and was a key cog in Warrior Run’s run to a 23-win season. But just a week before the District 4 Duals tournament, he lost his starting spot at 106 pounds to fellow freshman Tyler Hornberger in a wrestle-off. On top of that, Andrew Yetter had gotten down to 113 pounds and taken the starting spot there, leaving no room for Hunt in the lineup.
It was a frustrating time for Hunt, who had spent the entire season wrestling at 106. He believed he could have helped the Defenders get over the hump and into the finals of the district duals tournament, earning a trip to Hershey. But he always remained positive.
He kept a positive mindset, preparing himself in case an injury or other situation would arise that helped him get into a postseason tournament. He got that opportunity when 120-pounder Brian LeBarron wasn’t able to go for sectionals. The coaches asked Hunt if he could somehow get to 108 pounds so he could qualify for the 120-pound bracket. Hunt wasn’t sure, but he tried, eating as much as he could while continuing to workout. Then, two days before sectionals, Hornberger and Yetter were wrestling practicing when Yetter fell awkwardly on his left shoulder and hurt it bad enough that he wasn’t able to compete on Saturday.
Suddenly, Hunt had a more realistic chance of being competitive. He still ate what he could to weigh in as heavy as he could, but at 102 pounds, he was weighing in about 12 or 13 pounds lighter than the other 113-pounders in the bracket.
“At least I got a chance,” Hunt said following his fourth-place finish on Saturday, missing out on a district qualifying spot by one win.
Hunt wrestled with all heart Saturday. He was clearly undersized, but still earned a first-round win over Hughesville’s Matt Heinreich. He even scored a second-period fall against Sugar Valley’s Cody Lehman in the consolation semifinals. But when it came time to wrestle two-time state qualifier Matt Welliver, or 29-match winner Lewis Williams, the size difference was just too much.
Hunt walked around the Hughesville gymnasium Saturday evening with a smile on his face. He knew he was an underdog. He knew with the likes of Welliver, Williams and Sullivan County’s Shawn Nitcznski in his bracket that it was going to be tough to get to districts. But he was happy to have gotten the opportunity and happy to have competed as well as he did. It helped that Hornberger took advantage of his opportunity at 106 pounds by winning the sectional title.
“I felt good (Saturday) morning. I guess I just prepped right,” Hunt said. “I’m happy with how everything played out.”
“He did a wonderful job,” Warrior Run senior Jared Watson said. “I knew he’d have a good day. He’s a tough wrestler. He’s quick. He still has three more years. He’s definitely going to make it somewhere.”
His teammates smile when talking about him. Maybe it was something to do with the mohawk he sports, or the gonna-rip-your-head-off imposing he look he gives when he steps on the line. Earlier this year after Hunt had a big pin that helped Warrior Run beat Muncy, senior Matt McAndrew called Hunt, “a different breed.” McAndrew paused for a moment, a grin creeping across his face as he watched Hunt mingle with friends and family before continuing.
“He’s out for blood,” McAndrew said. “I like him.”
Hunt was never fazed by wrestling at the varsity level, never intimidated by being undersized. He never weighed in at more than 102.8 pounds during the season, and even weighed in at 98 pounds during the Jersey Shore Duals, where he went 3-2.
He’s got the mentality to not only compete, but win at the varsity level. He’s in a situation not all that far from the same one former Defender Jason Guffey, or former Towanda wrestler Cody Wheeler was in as freshmen. Both were undersized and struggled as freshman to keep their heads above .500.
Guffey went on to win two state titles and compete at Division I Bloomsburg University. Wheeler ended up being a three-time state qualifier and was a state runner-up a year ago and is now competing at Lock Haven.
It’s far too early to say just what Hunt is capable of in a few years. But if he carries over the same attitude and heart he competed with to go 22-6 this year, when he finally fills out to a full 106 or 113-pounder, he’s got the potential to be very dangerous.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Mitch Rupert covers high school wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-155, ext. 3129 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.
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