'Rock Solid' Storm take nothing for granted

February 09, 2006|by ANDY MASON

Squatting front and center in the 2005-06 Mercersburg Academy wrestling team photo with the sleeves of his T-shirt cuffed to reveal his biceps, 44-year-old Rick Hendrickson, in his 13th season as the Blue Storm's head coach, looks as though he's still more than capable of holding his own on the mat.

"I still work out with the guys, but it's a teaching situation," Hendrickson said Wednesday night following his team's final dual meet of the season, a 52-16 victory over St. James. "There's no macho stuff in our room."

Hendrickson has taught the Blue Storm well. Few coaches in the area have gotten more success from their teams.

Mercersburg (18-9) is ranked No. 1 in the area for the third straight season and, for the fifth straight season and 11th under Hendrickson's guidance, the Blue Storm finished with a winning record. Overall, Hendrickson is 219-65-2 at Mercersburg.

And it's not like he's just faced a bunch of cupcakes. Last Saturday, Mercersburg took a rare pounding - against Blair Academy of New Jersey, the top-ranked team in the United States. Nearly every team the Blue Storm faces is a power in its respective region or league.


"This season, we've wrestled probably the most demanding schedule since I've been at Mercersburg," Hendrickson said. "And for our team, with only three seniors, to get 18 wins is quite a testament."

That senior trio does not include Josh Edgin and Brad Nielson, who won Pennsylvania independent-school state titles for Mercersburg as juniors last year. Edgin's season was lost to injury and Nielson now wrestles for Walkersville (Md.).

"This team has had to face a number of challenges this year, beginning with the loss of two state champions," Hendrickson said. "But we have kids who step in and do the job. They meet any challenge with intensity and enthusiasm.

"Part of that is the approach and attitude we have. There are no 'what ifs,' and you can't say, 'Can't,' on this team. If someone does, everyone on the team does 25 pushups. It's not a punishment. It's a reinforcement of how we do things here."

Some people in the area attribute Mercersburg's success to its ability to recruit. Hendrickson said that's inaccurate.

"It's hard to recruit when it costs $34,000 to go to school here," he said. "They come to school here for the educational opportunities. We've recruited a lot of these kids out of the dormitories in the fall.

"We don't have a feeder program. Most of these kids are homegrown."

Hendrickson has guided 12 of them to state titles and 26 to national placewinnings.

Mercersburg's 2005-06 team photo is titled, "Rock Solid." And there seems to be a little more to it than Hendrickson's muscles.

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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