Time away from wrestling motivates title contender
For Nick Heninger, this week is about climbing that final rung, accomplishing the one thing that has eluded him in a decade on the mat.
This week is about winning the best in the state.
"Last year was the worst I've done in a state meet," said Heninger, a Bingham High School junior who placed fifth in 2012. "That kind of motivated me to come back more aggressive this year and meet my main goal to win state.
"I've never won state. I was second behind my old rival back in elementary school in Tennessee. Winning state would fulfill my top goal in wrestling."
Heninger, who began wrestling at age 5 in Tennessee, is in the discussion for the 195-pound title, to be decided this week at Utah Valley University. In December, he was Class 5A's top-ranked wrestler at his weight, but injury and an upper respiratory infection slowed his progress.
He enters the week with a 28-8 record after placing third in the sectional meet last week at Jordan High. In that meet, he lost a one-point decision to Viewmont's Jake Bednar.
"He does a good job of going to big tournaments and wrestling well," Bingham coach Matt Walker said.
Heninger's passion for the sport was renewed two years ago after he took a two-year hiatus to pursue other interests, including snowboarding. He said he regrets leaving the sport because of the training and experience he missed, but feels he wouldn't enjoy it as much if he hadn't had that break.
"I feel like if I would have kept wrestling, I would be dominant right now," Heninger said. "But I was starting to get burned out from all the wrestling. So it was good for me to take a leave of absence. I'm back feeling the excitement again."
Walker understood Heninger's decision to step away.
"He just needed that break," Walker said. "I told him I took a break for a year from wrestling. The reality is, guys come back hungrier, they almost want to make up for that time they missed."
Last year, Heninger placed fifth in the 182-pound division. That experience, along with an ability to shake off and learn from losses, will benefit him this time around.
"He has the ability to just go back in the room and start working again," Walker said. "He doesn't let losses affect him that much. It's like, 'OK, I made a mistake. Just have go back and not make those mistakes again.' "