by Andrew Stark
When the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association wrestling championships commence at Charlotte Country Day on Friday, Feb. 17, there will be plenty of new individual champions. But one local star is hoping he can repeat as state champion.
Last year, Providence Day’s Amit Naik walked away with a state title. On Saturday, he has a chance to do something few wrestlers achieve in their career: become a three-time winner.
Naik, a 120-pound junior, is 28-7 on the season. He is ranked first in his weight class by retrorankings.com and is focused on returning to the podium a champion. Naik is the only state champion from last year returning to the event.
“There is some pressure being a past champion, and (people) want to knock me off,” Naik said. “But I just try to keep my head in the game and continue to improve.
“People know more who I am this year, and I am not taken as lightly as I was last year, especially in the beginning of the season.”
Providence Day coach Paul Burnam said that, as a freshman, Naik didn’t get many opportunities to take the mat. Last year, he had several seniors ahead of him but continued to work hard and wait for his chance. When Naik got that chance, he took it and ran all the way to the state championship, which he won in the 114-pound class.
“We fully expect Amit to win states again this year and go into the national tournament and make a good run there,” Burnam said. “He expects that out of himself.
“He works hard at improving his own skill set, and he stays late after practice. Amit is receptive to criticism and improving what he does. He has been dominant, especially against private-school competition.”
Naik is one of the team leaders for the Chargers, who have just 10 wrestlers on the roster, meaning they have to forfeit four weight classes each match.
The Chargers also have only one senior, Matt Plaus, whom retrorankings.com lists as the No. 1 wrestler at 138 pounds after he finished second at the state tournament last year in the 127-pound weight class.
Last year, the Chargers finished second at the state tournament. However, they graduated eight seniors, many of whom had been in the Providence Day program since middle school.
Naik said finishing among the top five in the team competition at this year’s state meet would be an amazing accomplishment, especially with such a short-handed squad.
The Chargers finished second in the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament on Feb. 9, as Plaus and Naik, along with 170-pound Ben Greenburg and 106-pound Arthur Linne, won individual conference championships.
“We are rebuilding the program, and I think by next year we can win the state championship,” Naik said.
For now, he is focused on winning another individual title.
“It has always been an individual goal of mine to become a state champion and an all-American,” Naik said. “I have won a state title and hope to do so again this year.”
Naik said he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but he’s excited about having the rare chance to become a three-time champion.
“I work hard in practice and never quit in any matches,” he said. “I think if I can continue to do that and put more time in the offseason into wrestling that I can accomplish my goals.
“I will continue to work at it.”
Want to go?
First-round matches of the NCISAA wrestling tournament begin Friday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. at Charlotte Country Day. The championship finals are Saturday, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m.