MOREHEAD CITY — Josh Henderson says he’s confident he’s going to finish on the podium at the state wrestling tournament this season.
Those are lofty goals for a junior – even loftier for someone who didn’t qualify for states as a sophomore. But not making it last season has propelled the West Carteret wrestler thus far through an outstanding campaign.
“Not going last year, it has turned my attitude and made me want it even more,” Henderson said. “I want to prove to everyone that I can.”
He was one match away from qualifying for the state tournament as a sophomore when he suffered an excruciatingly close 4-3 decision loss to C.B. Aycock’s Turner Bass in the 3A east regional 195-pound consolation semifinal.
“I think about it all the time,” he said. “I’m reminded of it every day. It was very disappointing. I felt I could have done better. I was excited about going to states because I was a sophomore and it doesn’t happen too often, and it was my first year as a varsity wrestler. I didn’t wrestle as well as I know I could have, so I’m hoping I correct those mistakes this year.”
Henderson had a fine sophomore campaign in what amounted to his first full wrestling season in three years after battling through injuries as both a freshman and eighth-grader. He ended up 31-9 and finished third in the Coastal Conference.
This season has been an entirely different matter as he already sports a 30-5 mark.
He began the year by winning the 182-pound division in West’s Beach Brawl with a pin in 1 minutes, 48 seconds over Southwest Onslow’s Loren Raynor, took fourth at New Bern’s Swiss Bear and was then the runner-up at Croatan’s Beast of the East.
“I think winning the Beach Brawl was a big deal for me because I wrestled in it last year as a JV wrestler, so that boosted my confidence a lot,” he said. “Taking fourth at the Swiss Bear, that wasn’t my best tournament, but I bounced back at the Beast. I felt pretty good. I could have done better in the final, but we wrestled well as a team, so I was proud of that.”
At the prestigious and ultra-tough Tiger Holiday Classic, he took third with a pin in 1:54 of Northwest Guilford’s Jevin Wells. He closed out 2019 with his second tournament title, beating Dixon’s Andrew Edens in the championship match at C.B. Aycock’s Falcon Invitational.
“Taking third at the Tiger, that is pretty good for that big of a tournament,” Henderson said. “That was a big highlight. And I was absolutely excited to win the Falcon. It’s going much better than it did last season.”
Henderson attributed his improvement to more time in both the practice room and weight room and an increase in aggressiveness.
“I’m just going out there and giving it my all,” he said. “Wrestling my matches and not reacting to the guy I’m wrestling. Every day that I’m in the practice room, the coaches are showing me something new. I work on it, utilize it, I see improvements. And now being one of the stronger guys in the weight class is a huge bonus.”
Putting in the work has never been an issue for Henderson.
He ranks first in his class with a 4.6 GPA.
“I compete with a few friends,” he said. “We’re always in the running, Scotland McNeill, Alex Williams and me. We compete in just about everything related to school.”
Henderson said his top two schools are UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke. The following step would be medical school.
“My parents are both PAs (physician assistants), and being around them, it has encouraged me to want to help people out,” he said. “I think I want to be a surgeon.”
In the meantime, Henderson is focusing on his junior goals, and that includes team success as well.
He’s been a part of back-to-back Coastal Conference title teams. The Patriots aim to make it three in a row this season.
They put together one of the best seasons in school history last year, going 36-2 and making it to the east regional final in duals before losing 43-29 to Cape Fear. They later captured their first tournament regional title in 25 years.
“We had an excellent team with four seniors who were each an almost guaranteed win,” he said. “Younger guys stepped up, and we crushed it to win regionals.”
This year’s team is off to a similar start, going 14-2 with a Beach Brawl title, third-place finishes at the Beast and Falcon, a sixth-place finish at the Swiss Bear and a seventh-place outing at the Tiger.
“We lost those seniors. but a lot of the younger guys have stepped it up and taken up the mantle to keep this run going,” he said. “I think we can.”
Here are a few of Henderson’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Remember the Titans.”
Favorite TV Show: “House.”
Favorite Cartoon: “SpongeBobSquarePants.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Zac Brown Band.
Favorite Song: “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band.
Favorite Book: Memory Man by David Baldacci.
Favorite Team: Penn State.
Favorite Athlete: Bo Nickal.
Favorite Vacation: Barbados.
Favorite Hobby: Golfing.
Favorite Subject: Chemistry.
Favorite Quote: “Champions are people who get up when they can’t.” – Jack Dempsey.
Favorite Food: Steak.
Favorite Drink: Milk.
Favorite Restaurant: Chick-fil-A.
Favorite Season: Wrestling.
Favorite Sports Memory: Wining the Falcon Invitational.
Favorite Teacher: Ms. Debbie Butler.
Favorite Sport: Wrestling.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Imagining the moves I’m going to hit before all of my matches.
Favorite Website/App: Snapchat.
Favorite Follow on Twitter/Instagram: Skramble Wrestling.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Bo Nickal, Sheldon Cooper, Dan Gable, Albert Einstein and Gregory House.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Jacob Bennett, Clayton Wilson, Ray Garner, Hiroki Cruz and coach Jake Anfinson.
Items For A Deserted Island: Golf clubs, weights, fishing pole, wrestling mat and lots of sunscreen.