Athlete of the Week: Small has lofty goals for Chiefs

You’ve heard of a golfer’s quest to shoot his age? North Myrtle Beach senior Steven “Joey” Small has the rare opportunity to wrestle his weight.

The 120-pounder is only four wins shy of reaching the 100-victory plateau for his career, and he’s already 22-3 in his senior season. A run to team and an individual state championship could put his win total close to his magic number on the scales.

“It’s been a pretty good year so far, and I need four more wins to get to 100,” said Small, who has been wrestling for the Chiefs since his freshman season. “To get 100, that’s a pretty big thing for a wrestler.”

But Small’s list of goal go beyond the triple-digit mark. After finishing sixth in last year’s Class 3A individual state tournament, Small hopes to take the next step with a spot on the podium in 2013. But, more importantly, he hopes to help the Chiefs advance deep in the team state tourney after missing the playoffs last year.

“We were all disappointed about not making the playoffs last year, but it motivated us to make it this season,” Small recalled. “We’ve got eight seniors this year and a lot of good young guys, so we hope to go pretty far.”

Small and his fellow seniors have served as leaders for the Chiefs this season, pushing them to strong finishes in the NMB Duals, the Seahawk Slam and the U.S. Navy Duals over the holiday season. Small went 6-0 last weekend in Lexington at the Navy Duals against a strong field of contenders.

“Joey works hard in practice and it is evident in his matches because he outlasts many of his opponents and he capitalizes on their mistakes and their lack of conditioning,” NMB coach Andrew Baeli said. “He cares about the team and has really matured over the past several years.”

All along, Small has maintained his weight at 120, but his confidence has grown ten-fold. In addition to laying off the sweets over the holidays and practicing instead of playing X-Box, Small carries himself the way a coach expects of his seniors.

“It’s been tough, but you just have to find a good balance and work off whatever you eat,” Small said of his weight. “But the big difference for me this year is confidence, just from being a senior and knowing what you have to do to help your team win.”

Small and the Chiefs have high hopes for the season, and a team and individual state titles are at the top of his list. Small hopes to continue wrestling in college, so his career win total could wind up much higher than his weight.

“He has hopes of going to college to wrestle,” Baeli said. “With his determination, he will learn a lot and be successful. As for right now, I believe he is well grounded, taking each match as it comes and knowing what he has to do to help the team succeed to reach our goal of winning a state championship.”

Photo by Digital Magic Photo

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