FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Last year Aaron Hutson was a victim of the system. This year he is a product of the system.
"He'll leave a legacy at Bradley Central. They'll be talking about him years from now because he hung in there and persevered," Bradley coach Steve Logsdon said.
Hutson is one of those coach's feel-good stories. He was dismissed from the team as a freshman for conduct Logsdon found unbecoming for a Bradley wrestler. He went to Logsdon as a sophomore and asked to come back out. His wish was granted, but few outside the Bears' wrestling room knew his name, much less his weight class. His junior year was a duplicate, and his senior year started out much the same.
"He was a victim weight-wise last year. Not starting and staying with it is a testament to his character," Logsdon said. "He was good enough to wrestle, but he had better guys in front of him. I honestly felt, though, that he could've been a state place-winner last year."
Hutson toiled in anonymity, and in the Bears' wrestling room that is particularly grueling.
"Our practices are very intense. We demand a lot of time and we demand a lot of work," Logsdon said. "Aaron was doing that, and had done it, with no reward. He never got his name in the paper, and he didn't have any medals."
Hutson said it never dawned on him to quit.
"There's no way," he said, "I like the sport and I figured I could help the team by going hard in practice and pushing the guys going for state titles. I didn't need a reward to stay in it."
There have been rewards, and they go beyond the occasional Sour Patch Kids candy for which he has such a craving.
"Coach gives me some every now and then - sometimes one or two, sometimes half a box. I guess it depends on what kind of mood he's in," Hutson said.
It actually depends on how close to being on weight he is, but Logsdon doesn't tell him that.
It isn't about rewards, though. Hutson's prestige has grown since he stepped into the Bears' lineup after Christmas. Entering the state duals tournament he was unbeaten and had given up no takedowns and just one reversal, and he recorded a major-decision win Friday against Maryville.
Among the name wrestlers he has beat are Jack Boone of Notre Dame, Tyler Harvey of Ooltewah and Joel Simpkins of Cleveland.
"This year we had Ethan [Hames] at 125 and [Jericho] Crutcher at 130, and Aaron found a way with his diet to get down to 119," Logsdon said. "It has been great for him and for the team."
Hutson has become an important piece in the puzzle that Logsdon are his assistants are putting together in hopes of extending a three-year string of duals and traditional championships.
"There were times when Aaron reacted poorly and he had to learn to keep his composure," Logsdon said. "It was more in social situations than in wrestling. In wrestling he has been a perfect gentleman, acting appropriately in the wrestling environment on the mat and off."
Hutson already has signed up with the U.S. Marine Corps, and he'll report to Paris Island, S.C., for training in late June. He'll go a better man that the one who signed the original enlistment papers.
"Aaron wanted to project that tough-guy image, and he didn't have to," Logsdon said. "He is such a good kid, and I really think his self-esteem has grown. And I have told him that guys who have good self-esteem don't have to project any image. People can see it."
Said Hutson when asked if he felt he was getting a reward: "I put in the effort. I have been pretty dedicated, and it has paid off."