LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Hunter Reed was 5 when he decided to become a wrestler.
"I saw a photo of my dad back-arching someone, and I said whatever that is I've got to do it," the Lakewood Ranch sophomore said.
It hasn't been easy to get where Hunter Reed is, says Craig Reed, who has coached his 16-year-old son since he began wrestling competitively at the age of 7.
"Hunter is a very compassionate young man and cares about people," Craig Hunter said. "In a sport like wrestling, more often than not you have to be a fighter. ... Teaching him how to transition from being compassionate to somebody who is ready to do hand-to-hand combat was the most difficult thing I had to do."
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Hunter Reed is living the dream his father created. He is 54-1 heading into the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 2A state wrestling tournament that begins Friday in Kissimmee.
Hunter Reed finished second at the state meet last year in the 106-pound class. Now he is going for the 113-pound title. Lakewood Ranch's Dylan Cameron, a runner-up at region in the 126-pound weight class, will join Reed at state.
Craig Reed served 4½ years in the military, where he was a combat diver for the first Ranger Battalion and is now a commercial diver. He has been Hunter's personal coach for more than a decade and says the relationship with his son has been a learning experience for both.
Hunter Reed played football when he was younger. He liked the hitting and contact, but said he was turned off by the coaches yelling and gave it up.
Craig Reed learned the best way to reach his son is through talking, not yelling. It is a lesson that took some time to grasp.
"Part of the process was learning how to communicate in a way my son would understand," Craig said. "It took awhile. I am still learning to communicate with him, but I learned how to talk to him from his corner. We both realized we could communicate without yelling, though this is a very emotional sport."
Hunter looks at wrestling in a scholarly manner and credits his dad for teaching him two key points: always keep your head up and never give up.
"I like the mental challenge. Each match is like solving a puzzle," Hunter Reed said. "I couldn't stand the coaches yelling at me in football. My dad just talks to me normal, and I hear him even when the crowd is yelling."
One of the most difficult things they've had to overcome was when father became coach and then went back to being dad.
"He had to understand when I am in coach mode and coaching everybody. I had to learn to turn off the coach mode and now I am your dad and put my around you and love you no matter what," Craig Reed said.
They both agree wrestling has improved their relationship. Now they are more like one, though Hunter Reed is gaining his independence and wrestling for himself instead of just trying to please his dad, according to Craig.
"There is no other sport that teaches you the maturity that wrestling does," Craig said. "There are so many variables involved not to mention you are one on one out there in the middle exposed. You can't hide from anybody."
For now, Hunter just wants to focus on what's in front of him. He is seeded third, but last year finished runner-up at state after placing fourth in regions.
He doesn't like the yelling when it comes from his coaches, but loves to see the crowd get excited because he feeds off that.
"What I remember most about last year at state is in the finals when they lined everybody up. Just looking around and seeing the crowd roaring across the stadium. It was cool," Hunter said.