HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Difficult doesn't begin to describe how tough it is to win a national championship in any sport at any level. Coker wrestler Charlie Huff will be looking put those odds aside and bring home a national championship in the Cobra wrestling program's inaugural season. The 133-pound Huff might have the recipe to turn his dream of a national championship into reality.
"I know it's cliché, but I just have to go out and wrestle like it's any other match," said Huff. "If you look at it like one big 'thing,' you are going to fold."
No athlete becomes a national champion overnight, and although Huff brought home a title earlier in the season at the Pembroke Classic, it was a loss that really opened his eyes to how good he could be.
"I saw the breakthrough in a 7-6 loss to Anderson's Zach Hale," said head coach Cy Wainwright. "That guy fell short of being an All-American last season and Huff almost took him down for the win."
Huff was quick to agree that the match against Hale was a humbling wake-up call. After the narrow loss to a potential All-American, he realized that he could compete against the best in the nation.
His journey through regionals was anything but a walk in the park. In the first round, Huff found himself sparring against an opponent who he had already lost to three times during the season. After dropping the opening match, he would win the next three straight to advance to the final of the wrestle-back bracket. The final match was nothing more than sweet redemption. Huff would take on Hale, this time, the fate of the season coming down to a seven-minute showdown.
Ultimately, Huff would seal his national championship berth with a tightly contested 4-2 overtime victory.
"It was exciting to say the least," said Huff. "After losing in the first round, I got my head on straight and ended up winning four in a row to qualify for nationals."
Huff, a junior, spent his first two years competing at the junior college level where he did big things as well. But that does not compare to the stage he will set foot on later on this week.
But while Huff may lack experience on the national stage, he can rely on coaches Wainwright and Jeremy Bommarito to show him the way.
Wainwright has experience at the national level both as a coach and as a wrestler. While wrestling at Newberry College, he was a two-time All-American, a national champion in his weight class and a runner-up for wrestler of the year in 2009. Bommarito was a national qualifier at the junior college level, as well as an All-American at Limestone College.
"Both of them have competed at the highest level of competition," said Huff. "I want to use their experience to aid and lead me to success."
In the 133-pound division there are 16 wrestlers including Huff, and although he is not sure of his seeding, the bracket has been set. He will open up against Daniel DeShazer of Nebraska-Kearney on Friday, March 14.
"Although I know who I will take on in the first round, I just have to go out and wrestle," said Huff. "I have to look at each match as another seven-minute showdown, and if I wrestle to my ability, I can hopefully become the first national champion in Coker College history."
Fans can watch Huff live in action online at NCAA.com beginning at 11 a.m. on Friday.
Story written by Sports Information Intern Aaron Beebe `15