William Murphy, center, with coaches Gunnar Olson and Scott Bissonette, won his weight class at the Vermont state wrestling championships in St. Johnsbury last weekend. Photo by Jennifer Olson.

Concentrating during a high school wrestling meet seems difficult. There are whistles blowing, coaches and fans shouting, bleachers packed with athletes and spectators, voices on a loudspeaker constantly blaring. William Murphy, a Charlotte junior at Champlain Valley Union high school, was able last weekend to block out all the noise and become the state champion in his weight class at the Vermont state wrestling championships at Mt. Anthony Union High School.

Murphy was seeded first in his weight class, 220 pounds, going into the competition and mostly dominated his competitors throughout the season. A Redhawks wrestler since his freshman year, he was able to beat Essex High School’s Bubba Richardson for the state title.
CVU wrestling head coach Gunnar Olson said that Murphy has the mental preparedness aspect of wrestling figured out. “Will’s ability to get in the zone and remain calm has allowed him to leave it all out on the mat each time he competes,” he said. “Will is an analyst. He has competitions and opponents mathematically figured out before they start. He is always up for a philosophical debate. Maybe these are the things going through his head when he’s out there…I’m not fully sure, as he’ll never let someone figure him out.”

Murphy’s perspective as a student wrestler was a little different—although he appeared to be calm, he said he struggled a little after the first round of the two-day state championship tournament. “I was restless all night,” he said. “I would shut my eyes but soon be woken by bad dreams of defeat in my semis match, or finals match, and falling short of the top spot on the podium.” He was able to pull it together, though, and finish the season with a record of 30-3, a number that Murphy is happy about, since it brings him “a lot closer to the 100 wins milestone.”

Going into the tournament, Murphy said, “My goal was definitely to win a title. I think between having the top seed in the tournament and my coaches, friends, and family all expecting me to win the title, it put a lot of pressure on me.” Olson said that the exterior support and positive pressure is vital to a wrestler’s success. Though Murphy’s achievement is because of his own hard work, talent, and drive, Olson said that the supportive and tight-knit CVU wrestling team is an important factor as well. “Besides the obvious training partners that a team provides, it is really important for every member of a team to be present at all times even if they aren’t competing or practicing,” he said. “Strength in numbers plays a big role. Seeing Will’s teammates in the stands supporting him in the way they did makes it all worth it.”

Though his teammates are an integral part of his wrestling career, Murph said, “My favorite part about the program is the coaches Coach Rourke, and Justin Bissonette. They are all phenomenal wrestlers and really great role model, each having a powerful work ethic and great personal values. My head coach Gunnar especially. He has been a great idol, mentor, and friend since I met him my freshman year. I would definitely not be the person I am today without his guidance.”

The next step is the New England high school wrestling championship in Methuen, Mass. on March 7 and 8. “I have my sights set high,” Murphy said. “The goal is to be on top of the podium again. But I would be overjoyed with any podium finish I can secure.”