Cavalier Corner

February 2018

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BY SEAN LABAR U VA REDSHIRT FIRST-YEAR Louie Hayes vividly recalls taking the trip to the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Champion- ships to close out last season — though he was just a spectator who had never competed in a collegiate match. Hayes — who was ranked No. 11 in the country at 125 pounds as of Jan. 29 for the 2018 Hoos — craved to witness the nation's elite talent first hand. Like a scientist, he carefully dissected the finely tuned details of each competitor who had reached the pinnacle of the sport. Nearly 20,000 fans packed into the Scot- trade Center in St. Louis for the final day of the three-day event to cheer for their be- loved teams, individual wrestlers and idols. Photographers and journalists lined the mat to capture the action. Coaches belted out tips and commands. Hayes wasn't distracted by the raucous scene and watched intently. He came there for a reason. For as long as he can remember, the UVA standout has dreamt of getting a chance to compete for an NCAA national title, and now that his first collegiate season is coming to an end, that dream has morphed into a reality. All of the practice, training and watch- ing would soon turn into true collegiate competition. "I remember watching [the 2017 national tournament] and thinking about the commitment and training it would take to get there," Hayes said. "As soon as it ended, I told Coach [Steve] Garland that I was going to be an All-Ameri- can in 2018. "They told me not to sell my- self short and I should strive to win the national championship." Hayes' focus for the next year became crystal clear. He would try his hardest to outwork the competition, learn from the best and strive for perfection, just as he has done his entire life. As a three-time captain of his high school wrestling team at Carl Sandberg High School in Orland Park Ill., Hayes was a highly touted college recruit after making his mark on the national wrestling scene as a lightweight. He embraced his physically small stat- ure and used it as an advantage claiming the Illinois High School Association state championship, Junior Freestyle National Championship, Junior Greco-Roman Na- Through Jan. 29, Hayes boasted a 25-5 re- cord and was ranked No. 11 nationally at 125 pounds. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA DRIVEN Redshirt First-Year Louie Hayes Has Worked Tirelessly Toward His Dream FEBRUARY 2018 21

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