Dec. 27, 2013
After starting the season 0-4, senior/junior Chris Heald (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield HS) found breakthrough success with an eighth-place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 6-7) and followed it up with a dual win over in-state rival Central Michigan. The Wolverine junior bumped up a weight class -- to 197 pounds -- after finishing the year strong with a seventh-place finish at 184 pounds at last year's Big Ten Championships. He wrapped up the first semester with a 5-7 record and higher expectations for the second half of the season.
In the midst of finals week, before the Wolverines took a week break for the holidays, Heald sat down to chat about his progress over the first semester, his knack for tournament competition, and his growing confidence and expectations.
Q: How would you evaluate your first semester?
A: It started off a little slow. I was 0-4 going into Las Vegas. I had a lot of really close matches. I felt like it was the little things I was messing up, like not having my head on the right side. It was small, subtle things that you don't really think about that I was doing wrong. So, I really kind of went back to basics and fixed a lot of those mistakes. I was working my way toward getting a victory. It finally all came together in that one tournament. I'm just looking to keep improving.
Q: Was your performance in Las Vegas a big confidence booster?
A: It really was. I got two pins in Las Vegas, and that was double the number of pins I had in my whole career. It was a huge confidence builder. Everything clicked together for me, similar to how it did at Big Tens last year. I feel like I'm right back to where I was coming off that tournament. I'm just going to keep building off of that. There are definitely still things I need to work on. But it's a big confidence thing. I'm finally feeling more confident and wrestling better that way.
Q: There were several team highlights from the first semester. Does it feel like things are starting to come together?
A: We started off a little sluggish. We talked about that a lot as a team and nitpicked over what we should focus on and how we can improve. If we keep picking away at these little things, I think it will really start to show and we'll be a better team as a whole. It feels good to have success. Sure, not everyone wins every single match, but I think collectively we were all satisfied with how we wrestled as a team. It makes it a lot more fun.
Q: You seem to wrestle pretty well in tournaments. Do you think you have a tendency to get on a roll?
A: Maybe so. Perhaps I'm more of a tournament wrestler. I'm excited for Midlands coming up. I think I have a good chance of placing. That's certainly the goal.
Q: Do your expectations change as you experience more success?
A: Definitely. I don't view other guys as being that much better than me. As long as I can keep it close, there's still a good chance for me to win against anybody. I won't ever stop trying to win. That comes in practice, academics. It's just the way I was molded in different things. I don't want to quit, and I'm never going to quit.
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