SPRING HILL — Spring Hill Wrestling Club has been churning out talented grapplers the past couple of years, and young men such as Nick Soto have brought national success with All-American honors at multiple tournaments across the country.
After Springstead High's wrestling program — one of the most revered in the state — lost a huge crop of senior state qualifiers to graduation in 2008, the Eagles reloaded with talent from Spring Hill Wrestling for the 2008-09 season. For every senior that walks out the door of the wrestling room, there are freshmen or sophomores right there to take their place.
Springstead coach Eric Swensen, the head of Spring Hill Wrestling, is already looking forward to the group of athletes that should be staples in the high school program in 2012. While that group should include talented wrestlers such as Matt Landgraff, Jordan Rivera and Conor Ross, there is one young man that headlines this class.
That name is Josh Herrera.
"I just love the intensity of wrestling," the 12-year-old said. "The idea of being able to eventually wrestle for Springstead is very exciting."
Intensity best describes Herrera's love of the sport. Herrera says his favorite match was the bout with Jared Cortez of Team Ohio at the National Elementary & Middle School Folkstyle Duals in Fayetteville, N.C., in November, which he lost.
"I just appreciate wrestling someone hard every time I go out there," Herrera said.
Herrera earned praise last season, his second in the club, for success in tournaments. He has already won the Florida Amateur Wrestling Association state championship for his weight class three times in as many years, along with multiple other state and local titles.
No one could have realized that Herrera was only scratching his potential and what kind of results lay ahead. Swensen and his coaching staff feel confident about Herrera's future.
"Josh is the best wrestler his age in his weight class in the state," Swensen said. "He has done some great things already, and he still has a long way to go."
Earlier this month at the Rocky Mountain National Games of Rome in Kissimmee, Herrera won a national crown in the 90-pound weight class. He easily defeated Manatee's Jesse Fulk in the tournament finals.
The staff at Spring Hill Wrestling credits not only Herrera's work ethic in the wrestling room for his meteoric rise the past three years, but also his work at home with his father, Jim Herrera. Although the elder Herrera is content avoiding the spotlight of his son's success, having the support of his parents has been instrumental for Josh.
"He does a ton of work on technique at home with his father," Spring Hill assistant Louis Kachiroubis said. "He will have trouble grasping something one day and then come back the next with it almost mastered."
For the next three years, Herrera will compete in tournaments across the country, the state and locally. Remarkably, he has already competed against and defeated high school varsity wrestlers. This experience will only help him till the day he firsts dons a Springstead singlet.
Though that's not the only thing he's looking forward to.
"Josh is always talking about how he can't wait to put on the Springstead colors," Jim said, "but he also is already thinking about where he wants to wrestle in college and his dreams beyond high school."
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