Washington & Jefferson wrestler Heinl goes on the offensive
Trying to stall out matches against Washington & Jefferson junior wrestler Mike Heinl is not be a sound strategy.
Bowing out of regionals with a 2-2 record last season has the Shaler graduate on the move. Heinl has been piling up the wins after bumping up to 149 pounds.
So far this season, Heinl is 18-2 with six pins.
“When it comes time for regionals and nationals, you have to get that takedown,” said Heinl, who finished with 37 wins, five short of the Presidents’ school record, last season. “You can’t just score once and hold on for the lead. I want to get better on neutral and my feet. I’m willing to give up a takedown, if it means getting three takedowns. I’m looking to go out there and score more points and not worried about the consequences.”
Taking chances and trying different strategies on the mat has been a key challenge for Heinl. This is the time of year to experiment.
“I think the regular season it’s nice to get wins under your belt and tournament wins. It’s all about peaking at the right time,” Heinl said. “I’m trying to make sure I peak when regionals come around. I want to be at my best.”
At the Messiah Petrofes Invitational in early December, Heinl placed second. In the finals, Heinl dropped a 6-4 decision Messiah’s Stephen Maloney.
What W&J coach Tommy Prairie has been preaching is making sure matches don’t stay close.
“It started with Mike his freshman year,” Prairie said. “You don’t want to let people up when it’s close. You want to always try to score points. Early on, it’s going to cost you in matches. When it comes to important matches, you’ve been there before being able to ride someone out for an entire period. You want to be winning by three or four and chasing a major or tech fall. That’s what separates the fringe guys from the top guys.”
Heinl bumping up to another weight class has allowed him to avoid worrying about cutting weight. One thing that came with Heinl’s success last season — he won the 141-pound Presidents’ Athletic Conference title — is having opponents approach him differently.
“With him being better and his reputation, guys aren’t wrestling as much as trying to hang on,” Prairie said. “It’s harder when guys know who you are when you step on the mat.”
Heinl wants to make sure he earns his reputation.
Scoring more points will help Heinl give the top wrestlers in the region a challenge.
The hope Heinl has is by pushing the pace, he can move on to nationals.
“I think I did have a breakout season last year,” Heinl said. “I didn’t think I accomplished really anything. I went to regionals and went 2-2. I was upset with that.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.