Tyler Hughes

Tyler Hughes, center, on the podium after winning regionals. Hughes recently placed third at the he N.C. High School Athletic Association individual wrestling championships.

Going into this season, Charles B. Aycock junior wrestler Tyler Hughes expected to compete for a state champion.

Hughes made the most of his winter campaign by finishing the season with a 56-4 record and a third-place finish at the N.C. High School Athletic Association individual wrestling championships.

On Thursday afternoon, Hughes took some time to reflect on what he accomplished this past season as he lays the foundation for a potential championship run next season.

“I didn’t meet my biggest goal, which of course, was winning states,” said Hughes. “I think I did pretty good overall winning third.”

A wrestler since he was 12 years old, Hughes credits C.B. Aycock assistant coach Mark Bass with pushing him to get on the mat.

“Coach Bass was my football coach, and he was big in getting me to wrestler,” said Hughes. “At first, I didn’t really want to, but he pushing me and got me into it. Now I love it and it’s one of my favorite things to do.”

During his freshman season, Hughes finished with a 48-11 record and trip to the N.C. High School Athletic Association individual wrestling championships. During his sophomore season, Hughes blew out his knee and had to watch from the sidelines.

“It was tough in the beginning because you go from wrestling to hurt and having nothing,” said Hughes. “The recovery process was long and difficult, but to go through the entire season injury free felt great.”

C.B. Aycock head coach Brian Doyle said Hughes was chomping at the bit to get back on the mat.

“I was there coaching him when it happened, so felt personally responsible because I took him out to that event, and to see him all last year, he would watch a little bit of wrestling and be dejected. You could just tell he wanted to get back out there,” said Doyle. “So, when it came to start training in the preseason, he started putting in work. He never missed a workout, he was there every single time working hard.

“You could see his confidence growing when he knew his knee was going to be fine.”

After coming back from his injury, Hughes’ career blossomed this season, and his role as team leader grew and took shape. During practice, Hughes is always pushing his teammates to get better and work harder.

“He’s very unique and very self-motivated. He’s a hard worker, and I never have to push him,” said Bass. “He leads by example, and he pushes the kids because he wants them to keep with up him, and make them better.

“He raises the level of competition in the practice room.”

Two of Hughes’ greatest accomplishments came this season when he won his 100th career match and won regionals for the second time in three years. Now with his senior season coming up, Hughes is preparing to make a run for that ever-elusive state championship.

“From last season to the end of this season, I’ve improved and learned a lot, and I’m expecting to do a lot better next year too,” said Hughes.