Briar Woods High School 126-pound wrestler Michael Hulcher is already a marked man.
Hulcher will bring his sparkling 39-2 record and No. 1 AA state ranking into the Dulles District tournament Feb. 2, but the hard-working junior may have a little family trouble to deal with first following his title run at the Freedom Invitational.
In a family of incredible wrestlers – the Incredible Hulchers if you will – Michael became tops as his three wins Jan. 26 jumped him past brother Brian (2011 grad with 125 career wins) and brother Thomas (2009 grad with 126 career wins) as he ran his lifetime record at Briar Woods to 127-22.
“My brothers told me that if I beat their records they were going to beat me up,” joked Hulcher prior to the Freedom Invitational.
His only two losses this year were at the prestigious Beast of the East tournament in Delaware. Hulcher just hasn’t won the rest of his matches, he’s dominated, taking 37 of his 39 bouts this season by either pin or technical fall.
“He is one of the hardest working athletes I have been around my whole career,” Briar Woods coach Ryan Rogers said.
After a 46-10 freshman campaign, Hulcher felt primed to win it all in 2012 but his sophomore season ended in shock in Salem at the AA state meet. Hulcher lost, 2-1, to a foe he had beaten earlier in the year, 13-4.
While Rogers tried to console his devastated wrestler under the stands after the defeat, Hulcher made a vow to his coach that he was going “win it all next year.”
“I was pretty upset about it, but it has given me motivation to get better,” Hulcher said. “I never want to have that happen again.”
This season, Hulcher – a hybrid wrestler who falls somewhere between the long and lank and short and stock stereotypes – has made good on his promise as he has relentlessly scored big wins.
“Michael has such intensity. He is always moving his feet. He is relentless. It is ‘go time’ all the time with him,” Rogers said.
After the tough exit at the 2012 state tournament, Hulcher has basically hit the wrestling room six days a week for the past 11 months, wrestling in tournament after tournament, especially in the summer. Hulcher’s mantra has been “work it, work it, work it” as he drills tirelessly to perfect his repertoire of moves.
“Practice the moves a number of times until you can recall them in your sleep, blindfolded and with two hands tied behind your back,” said Hulcher, who has been wrestling since age 6.
Wrestling as life is nothing new for the Hulcher clan, a family that is known to take “wrestling vacations.”
All told, the Hulcher’s have combined for 378 wins at Briar Woods with Thomas Hulcher winning two district titles and qualifying for states twice at 125 pounds and Brian Hulcher, a two-time district finalist also at 125.
And it doesn’t stop there as mom Susan has been the Falcons Team Mom and Michael’s sister Megan was a team manager for four years and can more than hold her own if a friendly-family wrestling tourney breaks out.
Refreshingly, Michael Hulcher’s success has come without any excessive swagger off the mat.
“He is the nicest kid. I can’t speak highly enough about Michael. He gets good grades and even other coaches love him,” Rogers said.
Loudoun County High School coach Joe Caruso, who led his Raiders to the Dulles District regular season title this year, has coached Hulcher as part of the Rangers Wrestling Club. Caruso said the junior “is on another planet” when it comes to wrestling acumen.
Hulcher is a student of the sport and is willing to help out teammates. A big beneficiary of Hulcher’s drive has been his drill partner, 132-pound sophomore Micklos Zahora, who is 32-8 this season and 8-0 in district.
“He keeps you going and makes you do it right in practice. He’ll go hard until you go hard,” Zahora said.
While Rogers and assistant coaches Bill Jones and Andre Pelletier are constantly pacing the Falcon wrestling room, doling out advice, they have another resource in Hulcher, who sat down to watch film recently with 195-pound sophomore Bryan Capozzoli, one of his best friends on the team.
Capozzoli, with a 37-3 record, had just suffered a loss and Hulcher helped his friend break down the match.
“He finds all the little things I’m doing wrong. He sees things I wouldn’t notice,” Capozzoli said. “He then showed me some things in practice.”
Capozzoli, using Hulcher’s advice, was able to turn the tables on the wrestler he had lost to and beat him the next time out.
Rogers says the “sky’s the limit” for Hulcher, who could take aim his senior season at T.J. Julia’s single-season school mark of 58 wins. Certainly Julia’s career Falcon record of 144 wins is in serious jeopardy and another 40-plus win season for Hulcher would send him past the unofficial all-time Loudoun win mark of 163 wins by Loudoun County’s Tyler Anthony.
Hulcher, however, says he isn’t motivated by records or milestones, but is driven by the sheer will to win each time out.
“I want to win. Every time I go out I want to get my hand raised after the match,” Hulcher said. “I don’t do it for records. I do it for personal pride.”
-Dan “Split Decision” Sousa is the http://www.VivaLoudoun.com editor.
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