CENTRE – It’s almost been a year since Cherokee County High School junior Cody Herrick became the first wrestler in Warrior history to advance to the state tournament. He went 15-13 with 11 pins in the 126-pound weight class last season.
This year, Herrick is determined to make an even bigger splash.
“Definitely losing that last match (at state) makes me want to work harder every single time on the mat,” said Herrick, who wrestles in the 132-pound weight class this season. “If we’ve got any down time, I’m still wanting to get more reps in. I know who I’ve got to face: somebody bigger, stronger, faster, better than me. I’m always striving for the next shot.”
Herrick isn’t just talking about being better. He’s doing all he can to make it happen, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Warrior head coach Matthew Pharr said when practices were restricted because of the coronavirus outbreak last summer, Herrick didn’t let that slow him down.
“I’d come up an hour or so early and I’d lift weights in the gym by myself, and one day he saw me up here,” Pharr said. “He came up here to run, and he saw me walk in the school. I hear banging on the door about 10 minutes later, and it’s him. He’s like ‘Do you think (CCHS Principal) Mr. (Seth) Neyman would mind if I go in there and lift?’ I told him I’d ask him. Mr. Neyman was like ‘Yeah, as long as he wipes everything down and wears his mask, that’s fine.’ For half the summer, he and I were up here just lifting.”
“That type of stuff right there, not just the lifting, transfers into other aspects of life, the commitment to do the best you can, to be the best you can be, to push when everybody else is willing to stop. That’s the reason he’s able to have some success.”
Flash forward to now, and Herrick is having a stellar season on the mat. He’s 14-0 and ranked third in the state in his weight class.
“It’s been a tough season against highly-ranked people the whole time,” Herrick said. “I started off strong with Ashville and Alexandria. Those were definitely two of my tougher matches.”
Herrick’s Ashville match against Nick Spears (20-3) went into overtime before it was decided.
“I think it was 8-8 until overtime,” he said. “I got a quick ankle dive right off the whistle, and I eventually got him. I got my points in overtime, but just barely, with like three seconds left.”
“We knew going in that was one we needed to get. We needed to get a win in it to have a good resume going to state,” Pharr said. “He (Spears) was the No. 3 kid in the state at the time. Last year at state, I think he got fourth place in the weight class he and Cody were in last year (126). We knew if Cody wrestled well he would put himself in a position to have a chance to win. He started off sloppy in the match. He let the kid get an easy takedown early, but as the match went on, he kind of woke up and started to force the kid to wrestle his match instead of letting the kid dictate the pace. He did a really good job as the match went on and got into overtime.
“Something Cody’s been working on the last year and a half has been a quick shot in desperation to get some points. He hit it about as beautiful as you could hit it. He ended up going through a scramble, getting a takedown, getting points off of it to secure the win. It was a good match.”
Film study of his opponents has also helped Herrick out in his matches, Pharr said.
“Against New Hope, he wrestled the No. 1 kid in the state (Walter Allen, 17-2). He’s now No. 4, and Cody pinned him in the second round,” Pharr said. “All week, we had gotten some film on him so we could watch and see what he liked to do. We kind of planned a little bit to look for this and look for that.
“That’s one big thing I think separates Cody from the rest of the guys in the room. If I send him film or if he can get his hands on film, he’s going to watch it. He’s going to look for anything he can for any competitive advantage. It’s not something where we have to have a film session during practice. It bodes well for him, that work ethic he has.”
“Separating yourself from others, doing the extra little things, that helps get everything done,” Herrick said. “I’m just trying to win my matches and move on to the next one.”
Herrick’s work ethic is also rubbing off on several of his teammates as well.
Junior Alex Weeks, who wrestles in the 152-pound class, only had two wins last season. He’s currently 8-5. Herrick’s younger brother, freshman David Herrick, is 11-4 in the 138-pound class. Sophomore Joseph Rayborn is also 11-4 in the 145-pound class.
Their successes on the mat can be traced back to the examples Cody Herrick has provided them.
“From the moment he stepped in the room, he’s been a natural leader for the team,” Pharr said. “A lot of the guys vibe with him real well. They like his personality. They want to work with him. They look up to him, even the older the guys. When he says something, they listen.
“That’s always a great thing to have as a coach, one of those field generals. They take it seriously. They want to be successful and they want everyone around them to be successful. That’s a big thing with him. We’ve got a couple of kids in the room this year who are young. He’ll stop what he’s doing and he’ll try to work with them. He’ll coach them. He’ll put a move on somebody and they’ll be like ‘How did you do that?’ He’s like ‘Come on, I’ll show you.’
“He’s a good kid. Any success he has he deserves because he works hard.”
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