- February 19, 2014
Hunter Reed was sick, and there was nothing he could do about it.
It was the morning of Feb. 26, 2016, and the Lakewood Ranch wrestler, then a junior, had decided not to weigh in at the Class 3A Region 2 meet. He knew he would have exceeded his 120-pound limit if he had. Instead, he met his teammates in the lobby of their hotel in Kissimmee, and let them know that his season was over.
“Letting the guys know, I knew they understood how much I was cutting weight,” Reed said. “They knew what kind of toll it did on my body. They were really understanding. But it did hurt me not being able to go through regionals and states with my team. It was hard to let them know that was the end of the road for me.”
It was not just Reed who was affected. Reed’s father, Kraig Reed, was an assistant coach for the team, and said that two other wrestlers who qualified through the district tournament fell ill during the week in-between and were unable to compete. Three of Lakewood Ranch’s six wrestlers who did make weight were still battling illnesses, and as a result only one Mustang, Dylan Cameron, advanced to the state tournament.
None of the other wrestlers affected by the illness had Reed’s resume, though. He was 62-0 entering the regional tournament and ranked No. 2 in the state. All those wins, and all the hard work that went into them, were for naught, all because of a bug that hit at the wrong time.
“We sat at the state tournament and watched the kids that were competing, and we all knew he would have won that tournament,” Kraig Reed said. “It was particularly difficult for us to know how close it was.”
Hunter Reed was determined to not let the setback shake him. After the state tournament wrapped up, Reed headed to the 2016 National High School Coaches Association Nationals, one of the biggest tournaments in the country, and finished in the top-eight. This gave Reed confidence going into the rest of the offseason, and that confidence has carried into his senior year.
“Not being able to wrestle last year and having such a good opportunity, it makes it so much more important this year,” Reed said. “Make sure I'm healthy, make sure everything is working and I’m not hurt. That way I can go into the state run fully healthy and have the best opportunity that I can.”
Reed’s record this year sits at 26-1 wrestling at 132 pounds, though he has run into some of the same illness issues as last year, missing the last two weeks with the flu. Fortunately for Reed, it should be out of his system entirely now, and he can prepare for the run to states that he was unable to make last year.
Reed said that he typically has no problem cutting weight, as long has he has a few weeks notice and the amount of weight cut is not too drastic. He does not like to cut more than 15 pounds for a match, because he then would be cutting into his muscle, which is unhealthy.
To help with the cutting, the Reed family has supported him by not allowing any sugar into its house. That is something Hunter Reed has done his entire career, and it helps him avoid any temptations he may have.
“Sodas, any unnecessary sugars like sugary cereal,” Reed said. “We'll switch to plain Cheerios and skim milk. My dad will tell everyone, ‘Do not bring sugar into this house. If you do, do not let me see it.’ He has really supported me in that way.”
Reed brings opponents pain inside the circle, but outside of it, his father said, he holds a temperament rarely seen in wrestlers.
“The funny thing is, he is a lover, he is not a fighter,” Kraig Reed said of his son. “Which is in direct conflict with the kind of personality you need to have inside the circle. If there has been anything difficult to sort of bring out in him, it’s that fighting ability, or that intensity that he has got to have on the mat. We have a term for him here in the house, he's sort of calms the quarrels that we have here. We call him 'peacemaker.' He's our peacemaker. Whenever there is tension in the house, he comes out and he jokes and tries to calm the situation, and he definitely does not like it. He does not like those type of tense situations.
“That might embarrass him, but at the same time, he knows.”
Peaceful as Hunter Reed may be in daily life, he works hard to be the best wrestler he can be. At the upcoming wrestling state tournament on March 3, Florida will find out if his story of redemption can come full circle.