Hunter Kurowski admits that he used to not keep count of his wins on the wrestling floor.
From the time he began wrestling at the age of 10 and up through his first three years with the Forsyth Central Bulldogs, wrestling had become a reflex—if you will—instilled deep within his daily routine. Match in and match out he reeled in the victories, but did he bask in them?
“Not really,” he admits.
Now he has a greater appreciation for victory, fears defeat and has a newfound, uncommon work ethic.
His mindset changed at the GHSA Traditional State Tournament last season. As a junior, it was his second time there as an individual qualifier. He went down, falling in his fourth match of the tournament, and when it was over he was overcome with feelings of disappointment.
“He took it about as hard as anyone could,” Central head coach Jeremiah Walker said. “But we walked over to him, he had his head down and just told him to remember the feeling and use it as motivation.”
Kurowski didn’t need to hear that from Walker—he realized, right there with his head hidden in his arms, that he truly loved wrestling too much to be content with losing.
Walker says he’s been a “man possessed” since.
“The day after state, I just committed myself to hard work. To going up and over and making sure to take strides every day toward getting back to state,” Kurowski said. “I want to place, at the least. I want our team to make it to state. We’ve not made it as a team for a while, and I hope in my senior season we can break that streak.”
During the offseason, Kurowski committed to a new workout plan, but he also disciplined the mind as well. He and assistant coach Bob Mesita dove into a book titled Winning State, a guide to the discipline necessary to be great in the sport. Each week, they’d spend time talking about the contents of the book, almost like it was an extension of English class. In those moments, Kurowski was able to diagnose what he was missing most before.
“Confidence,” he responds, gladly pointing to where that exact word adorns the wall of Central’s historic gymnasium where the Bulldogs practice. “I’ve always had success, but I still never believed in myself. Not until getting near placing at state last year did I realize that I had to believe in myself, and now, heading into my senior season, I’ve got to apply that.”
Kurowski’s season got off to a great start—a surprising start as well. After winning a few matches in his first meet of the year, he was gifted with a sign that read “Congrats on 100 wins,” completed with a mosaic of photos from his previous few seasons.
“I didn’t even know I was that close until a few days before the match,” Kurowski laughed. “Now, I definitely cherish that. I think it’s cool. I’m the only current guy on the team with 100.”
From year to year he’s gone from a 33-21 record, to 32-15 and state qualification, to last year’s 39-13 mark—just missing the sixth and final placing slot at state. He’s also gone up in weight class each season, starting in 106 and eventually getting to 132, where he will wrestle this season.
Kurowski has also coupled his new work ethic with an expanded role as a team leader. His disciplinarian approach at practice likens to a coaching position.
“Definitely now, the seniors including me make sure that everyone is taking practice seriously, that we’re working as hard as we can,” Kurowski said. “Sure, we still have fun and laugh, but in the past I didn’t really do anything but that in practice. I wasn’t as committed. Now there’s a balance between us having a lot of fun and being productive.”
On whether or not he thinks the Bulldogs can meet their goals this season, especially in a new county-centric region, Kurowski lets out a grin of confidence.
“I really think we’re going to surprise people this season,” he says.
You can tell that, in a way, he’s surprised himself lately.