Head delivers championship performance

In sports, terms get thrown around like ‘it’ and ‘clutch’ in reference to athletes who perform at their best in the biggest moments.

Well, Eisenhower senior Louie Head has that ‘it’ quality, that ‘clutch’ gene, and it was on full display Saturday at Sharon High School.

Head, having just qualified for states, thus crossing off one of his major goals for 2016, faced a big challenge in the Northwest Region final against Cranberry’s Paul Zacherl.

The Berry senior was undefeated at 36-0, with Head sporting a mighty impressive record of his own at 33-1. The two had met before with Zacherl picking up a close win.

If anything, Head was maybe a slight underdog, but that is neither here nor there.

Trailing 5-4 after one period, Head threw Zacherl, getting him on his back and earning a pin moments later. It was ‘clutch’, an ‘it’ moment.

After the pin, Head raised his fist, jumped into the air, and exchanged a big hug with coach Greg Gourley.

“After I knew I pinned him, it was crazy,” Head said. “It was so loud. It was the best feeling ever.”

It was an incredibly special scene for a young man who has worked so hard for that moment.

A young man who had come up just short of making it to states in past years and wouldn’t be denied.

Quite simply, he performed his best on the biggest of stages.

“The last couple of years, I’ve lost out in the consi semifinals and finished one match away from making it to sates,” he recalled. “This year, I just told myself to put in the extra work, come in every day, lift, get stronger and get faster. It paid off and I hope I inspire the kids below me to do the same thing.”

It was also a special moment for Gourley, who is taking a wrestler to states for the first time as a coach.

“It’s kind of unreal my mind is going a million miles an hour,” he said shortly after Head’s victory in the finals. “He’s always been a special kid to me. I’ve been his coach since he’s been in seventh grade. Seeing him grow up, it’s very emotional for me.”

Head will take the mat in Hershey on Thursday riding a wave of confidence, noting that his preparation this week will remain the same as he trains for a potential state championship.

Any athlete who excels at his or her craft will tell you that is starts with the work you put in during the off-season, and that is so true.

And Head isn’t done yet.