Mike Hagerty knew something was up once Greg Hegarty’s eyes started meeting his.
That was the first subtle difference the Blue Springs wrestling coach noticed in a transformation that began during Hegarty’s sophomore season and wouldn’t be completed until two years later – after Hegarty had won two individual state titles while leading the Wildcats to consecutive state crowns.
Hegarty, who is The Examiner’s Wrestler of the Year, capped his senior season with a 48-1 record and a state championship in the 145-pound division. But four years ago, he entered the wrestling room as an admitted wanderer.
“Every kid that comes into the program you have a vision for,” Hagerty said. “And with Greg, when he first came in I wasn’t real sure. I thought he could be a really good wrestler. But I also knew we needed more of a commitment from him as a young kid.”
Hagerty described a young Hegarty as a chameleon. He showed up to practice and said the right things, but his coach could tell he was only going through the motions. Rather than stand out, he blended in.
As Hegarty reflected on his memories of his high school career, it only took a few seconds for him to bring up those early struggles. He weighed around 125 pounds at the time but was trying to make weight at 103. That required a strict diet and workout plan that the Blue Springs coaches designed, but Hegarty rarely followed.
“That’s something you always have – those regrets,” said Hegarty, who was also The Examiner’s Wrestler of the Year in 2011. “And that’s something that I wish I could go back and redo.”
As Hegarty coasted, though, he noticed what was going on around him. He saw upperclassmen like Luke Greco, Tyler Thompson and Hagerty’s son, Keenan Hagerty buying into the Blue Springs way. And he witnessed the results as Greco and Hagerty earned state titles during their careers and Thompson ended his senior year with a second-place finish.
“Keenan taught me how to train not only in the practice room, but before my matches preparing to get focused,” said Hegarty, who will join Keenan Hagerty at Maryville University in St. Louis next season. “Really, without him, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. He really, really showed me how to become a wrestler.”
Hegarty improved dramatically as a sophomore, finishing third at state in the 125 field. Then things really started to click during his junior year. There were obvious results on the mat that included a string of victories over highly-ranked opponents, but there were more discreet and equally significant alterations made in the wrestling room. For one, Hagerty noticed Hegarty started making eye contact as he spoke in practice.