H.S. WRESTLING | Union County Creates Winning Mentality On And Off The Mat

10/30/2016 12:22 PM

Nestled in corn fields and coal country of western Kentucky, is one of the most dominant wrestling programs in the state.

“We know it’s a big part of our community and there’s a lot of pride in that. You know, it’s something that I think the community is really proud of all the kids and it means a lot to us,” said head coach Robert Ervin.

The 3-A western Kentucky school has proved to be a dominant force in the wrestling world. Union County High School; 8-time state champions with kids cracking the top-25 nationally.

“I think it’s impressive. I think any time you have a school that has 650 kids that is competing at that level, that shows you the work that is put in to get there,” Ervin added.

“You go in unexpected and come out winning it. It’s crazy,” said senior Bryce Sheffer, a 3x individual state champion. Sheffer is going for his 4th title this season.

As the defending overall team state champions, the pressure is on. The Braves haven’t gone back-to-back since the 2007-2008 seasons.

“It’s the biggest sport around here so everybody is expecting greatness every year,” Sheffer added.

“We practice pretty much non-stop all year. You just have to be dedicated and motivated,” said junior Saul Ervin, a 2015 individual state champ and runner-up last year.

The UCHS coaching staff isn’t so concerned with what happens on the mat.

“Union County, I think it’s more of like, a family wrestling this year. Just the bond. I mean, it’s not really more as an individual here, it’s more as a team thing,” Ervin told cn|2.

“Be good men in and- in here and outside the room too,” Sheffer agreed.

“The biggest thing is I tell them how important goals are and that we’ve got to win the right way, you know? We got to train, we’ve got to put the work in and if you put the work in then you have confidence that you deserve to win and you’ve got to be honorable,” Coach Ervin explained. “You’ve got to be good people and we encourage having good character and it’s really important to us. It’s more important to us that they’re good men than good wrestlers, so if they win matches and they have success on the mat along the way, then that’s I guess the icing on the cake.”

Being a Braves wrestler isn’t for the faint of heart.

“It’s super hard. Cutting weight every day… nobody gets it. they’ll see me at lunch and I won’t be eating anything- just like a little glass of water and they’re all making fun of me because I can’t eat anything, you know, it’s definitely tough,” Sheffer said.

“It’s a tough sport and not everybody can do it. It takes a really special kid to be able to handle it, but the lessons that they get from it, from wrestling, is something that they’ll never forget. And the bond. I think probably the neatest thing is that those teams that have come together over the years,” Coach Ervin added.

Ervin has each of his wrestlers write down goals for the season. If he doesn’t think they’re striving for enough, he has them re-do them. They post them to the wall as a constant reminder of what they are there to do. The wrestlers shared what they wrote down:

“To win team state again, to be an individual state champ, to be ranked top-20 in the nation and just to keep a family atmosphere in here and everybody stays working hard,” Sheffer said.

“Our whole team to bond, come together as a family, everybody be good individuals in the room and outside the room. Work hard, stay focused and get that individual and team state title,” Ervin added.

And the Braves have the entire county backing them.

“You just see that columbia blue and white and it’s amazing. It just makes these boys want to fight hard for them,” Ervin added.

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