For any wrestler, the key to success starts on the practice mat.
It’s no different for Rogersville senior Riley Williams.
“His work ethic is great and he’s focused,” said Rogersville Head Coach Jason Carter
Focused on another shot at state, where Riley finished fourth two years ago as a sophomore.
“That was pretty overwhelming going against a better guy, a more experienced guy. He’d been there the year before so I’m hoping to have that knowledge coming in this year,” Riley said.
“Any time a kid can qualify for state and get the experience and the feeling of being there, that’s going to help them the next time they’re there,” Carter added.
No matter what happens at the end of this season, Riley will go on to wrestle in college.
Yet, he’s not joining an established program.
Instead, he’s getting in on the ground floor.
“We’re going to forever be in the history books, we’re going to forever be the first guys at [William] Jewell,” Riley said.
For the first time in 27 years, William Jewell will have a wrestling team.
As timing would have it, Riley was the Cardinals very first athlete to sign with the revamped program.
“We had our signing day and I got quarantined so I had to sign at home from my living room, but yeah I was the first signee, but not the first commit but it was pretty special,” Riley said.
It’s an opportunity Riley calls special. That’s exactly what his new coach is looking for.
“We need those. If you’re not excited about it, you’re not in the right place, so we need that,” said William Jewell Head Coach Keenan Hagerty.
Hagerty knows from experience through his college years at Maryville.
“My freshman year was the first year of the program,” Hagerty said. “So I got to be in their shoes and I can relate to them.”
That means Hagerty knows what he’s looking for, and knows Riley’s excitement will go a long way.
“You get to open any door that you want to and kind of lead the way for the next group,” Hagerty said.
It’s a challenge some might shy away from, but one this Wildcat plans to embrace.