MORGANTOWN — Senior Hunter Bishop grew up around wrestling. Immersed in the sport since his formative years, it has played a large role in developing the person he has become.
When it comes to the sport that has helped shape him, however, the Preston wrestler hasn’t been able to reach the pinnacle of high school wrestling — a trip to his state meet. For Bishop, just one match at the WVSSAC Wrestling State Championship would mean everything.
“Since I was five, I’ve wrestled for the fun of it. As I got older, it grew on me and started to push me and push my character. It really helped me out as a person,” he said.
“If I just make it to states, it’ll be the proudest moment of my life. If I can go farther than that, I’ll be even prouder of myself. My family has backed me 100 percent, and it’d make me so happy to do that for them.”
He was on track to make his dream a reality last winter, when he ran into a roadblock in the form of an injury.
“Last year he was doing really well and then he hurt his rib. Once that happened, he had a tough time trying to make the state tournament last year,”Preston coach Ike Dixon said.
More specifically, it was the top left rib, and unfortunately for Bishop, it was broken. The injury set him back vastly, and though he fought to make a late-season comeback, a trip to Huntington wasn’t in the cards.
“I just exercised every day and tried to rehabilitate every day,” Bishop said. “It still hurt every day but I pushed through it.”
Since returning at full strength this season, Bishop has looked stronger. He’s excelled in a leadership role on the roster — tallying a 21-7 record. On the mat, he brings a key combination of years worth of experience and a pugnacious style.
“He’s a captain this year, and with the leadership he’s done a fine job this year,” Dixon said. “He has experience. He’s wrestled all the way since pee-wee, and that experience helps out everything.
“He’s confident, and he’s aggressive. He works hard, and he’s aggressive all the time on the mat. That’s the key — staying aggressive for six minutes, and staying physical.”
Bishop credits that aggressive demeanor to his success, as he believes that wrestling is very much a mental sport, despite the physicality involved.
“Mentality is what beats you on the mat. If you go out there with a poor attitude, thinking you’re going to get beat, then there is a good chance you’re going to get beat on the mat,” he said.
“If you go out there thinking you’re going to win, you have high hopes, and you go aggressive, you have a high chance of winning. That’s basically wrestling. It’s mentality.”