by Chris Hunt
Since SouthLake Christian Academy joined the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association in 2007, the Eagles’ Class 2A wrestling program has eagerly awaited the arrival of its first state champion.
A plethora of heartbreaking setbacks over the years only intensified the Eagles’ passion to reach the top of the podium. Former SouthLake wrestlers Seth Stone (Class of 2007), Chris Kilgannon (2009) and Joe Hewitt (2010) were all runner-ups in their championship bids, as was current Eagle Cody Tucker (2012). A few of those wrestlers settled for second more than once.
On Feb. 19, however, years of frustration came to an end when SouthLake senior Sam Remick broke through to win the 162-pound state championship. As the only private- or public-school wrestler in the towns of Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson to win a state title, Remick also became The Herald Weekly’s 2010-11 Wrestler of the Year.
“Prior to the season, I told Sam, ‘I need you to win a state title,’” said SouthLake coach John Nerness. “The younger wrestlers need to see a state championship on our walls. Our kids really respect him, and he never gave up. I was so proud of him.”
It’s ironic that Remick was the first Eagle to attain such an elusive goal. Most would have expected SouthLake’s first state championship to come from a year-round wrestler, which Remick isn’t. As an all-conference football and baseball player, Remick wrestled to stay in shape during the winter. He grew to love the sport, but it clearly was third on his priority list.
After third-place finishes at the previous three state tournaments, Remick thought about giving up wrestling to focus on baseball – a sport he hopes to play in college. But in the end, Remick was too competitive to allow wrestling to get the best of him. In his final season, he won 31 of his 35 matches, finishing with a career mark of 140-34.
“I think Sam struggled with wrestling,” said Nerness. “Most sports come easy to him, but wrestling didn’t. It has been described as a cruel mistress because wrestlers often have a love-hate relationship with the sport.
“Sam was never satisfied to focus on just football and baseball because he had already started wrestling. He had to finish what he started, and he’s not the kind of kid that could fold up the tent (and walk away from wrestling).”
The Eagles’ wrestling team works out in a basement of a SouthLake school building. On the wall of the dimly-lit room are the names and finishes of former Eagles who placed at least third in the state tournament. Remick’s name is on that wall three times, one for each of his third-place efforts.
Soon, his name will be written a fourth time.
And next to it, for the fist time in school history, will be the words “state champion.”