Briar Woods defending state champion Michael Hulcher figured his day was pretty much done. The 132-pounder had won three matches at Saturday’s Viking Duals at Loudoun Valley, including his 100th career pin in a victory over Westfield’s Ryan Yorkdale.
So he did what countless famished wrestlers have done before him: sneak back into the hospitality room.
“I was two pieces of pizza deep, a sandwich, and a bowl of white chicken chili,” Hulcher said.
But as Hulcher relished his spread, Falcons Coach Ryan Rogers approached him.
“Coach comes over and says, ‘You have one more match, it’s the kid from West Virginia, and he’s a stud,’” Hulcher recounted.
The “kid” was Tyler Sigler, a state place winner from West Virginia’s Washington High School.
With his digestive system engaged as much as his leg muscles, Hulcher lost the match by decision, pushing his season record to 40-3.
“Gearing down and hyping back up didn’t really work in my favor,” he said. “On any other day, I think it’s a different match.”
“It was just a disaster,” Rogers said. “I’ll take the blame for that one.”
The rest of Hulcher’s day went markedly better.
Against Yorkdale, he carried a 4-2 lead into the third period. Hulcher started down and quickly escaped. All that remained was the takedown.
“I hit a shot, then we scrambled and ended up in some weird positions,” he said. “I got him into a position where his head and knee were close together. ... I locked my hands, put him in the cradle, took a deep breath, slowed down, and finally put him on his back right there.”
Hulcher has carried the Ashburn school’s program on his pinning.
“[Hulcher] kinda brought that to my room, to be honest with you,” Rogers said. “We always worked a lot on technique and our footwork, but to be honest, before he came in we never really working on pinning like he does.”
Long before Michael Hulcher raised his arms to celebrate his 11-4 victory over Christiansburg’s Gabe Lumpp in last year’s AA state final, he was just Thomas Hulcher’s kid brother.
He found himself around wrestling mats from a young age, tagging along when his older brothers were in action. Still, the youngest Hulcher never took the sport too seriously until he started working out with the Ranger Wrestling Academy in Leesburg around seventh grade.
“I wasn’t a very commited kindergartener,” he joked, “I was just doing it.”
Even Rogers had his doubts initially.
“I didn’t even think Michael was going to be one of my wrestlers,” he said. Coach Kurt McHenry and Ranger Academy “put a fire under him, and he dedicated his life to the sport.”
But as Hulcher prepares to defend his state title in the new 5A format, he hasn’t just turned heads with his individual performance; he’s living out the trope of making his teammates better wrestlers.
“We’ve won 23 dual meets this year with a team that has no business winning 23 dual meets,” Rogers said. “That’s a tribute to him.”
Before his sophomore season, everything Miles Brown knew about wrestling came from the world of WWE. But when the wrestling coaches at Sidwell Friends told him the sport would be good offseason training for football, he signed up and started learning.
“Yeah,” Brown said, laughing, “In high school you obviously can’t hit kids with chairs.”
Coach Lou Heberer believed that Brown, a middle linebacker and fullback on the Quakers’ football team, had the potential to win some matches. But Heberer never envisioned the junior being as successful as he has been, sporting a combined record of 50-4 over his first two seasons in the sport.
Brown went 32-4 as a sophomore with 17 pins and reached the round of 12 at National Preps, where he suffered two of his four losses. This year, he is featured in the Post’s individual rankings at 285 pounds with a record of 18-0.
“We really didn’t envision him being as good as he was. It kind of shocked us,” said Heberer, now is his 31st year of coaching. “He didn’t really wrestle like a heavyweight. He didn’t hand fight a lot, he didn’t go upper-body a lot. He’s got extreme speed and quickness, and he uses that as an athletic advantage against other heavyweights.”
Heavyweights typically don’t rely on technique as much as some of the lower weights, so Brown was able to get by with strength and speed alone. He was also aided by his experience on the football field, as tackling is not much different than a takedown on the wrestling mat.
“In football, I’ll just lunge at them and explode through the guy. And last year, my first year of wrestling, that’s pretty much all I did,” Brown said. “The double-leg takedown was my favorite because it was so close to football.”
Now, Brown said he prefers single-leg shots. He has grown to understand and appreciate wrestling, but he said it also fulfilled its intended purpose, making a noticeable difference during football season last fall. Despite his success on the mat, Brown doesn’t want to wrestle in college.
“Football is his number one sport,” Heberer said. “But he’s just turned into a heck of a wrestler.”
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