MYA wrestler Hanning wins national title

MERRIMACK – Aiden Hanning felt he wasn’t done with his wrestling season after winning the New England regional title a couple of weeks ago.

He was right on.

Not only wasn’t his season done, Hanning wasn’t done winning, either.

The Merrimack Middle School and Merrimack Youth Association eighth grade wrestler captured the Middle School National Championship in the 135-pound weight class this past weekend at the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) High School Nationals in Virginia Beach.

The tournament is broken into divisions for middle school athletes, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. It’s been a starting point for several U.S. Olympic Team members and NCAA champions and All-Americans.

Hanning’s original goal was to finish in the top eight in his weight class to earn All-American status, and he convinced his father, former Merrimack High School wrestler Mike Hanning, to drive him to the event in Virgina Beach.

And now he has a regional and national championship just a few weeks apart.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Hanning said. “I am just really happy.”

Hanning conquered all, including favored Nick Feldman of Pennsylvania with a pin 35 seconds into the second period in the championship match.

His tournament got off to a quick start with first period falls over Yoel Del Rio of North Carolina and Nolin Eaddy of Florida. Hanning said that once he had those two matches under his belt, he knew he could get to the finals.

In the semifinals, he took on favorite Matheson Meade of Tennessee and gutted out a 4-0 decision in a physical match to advance to the finals where he faced Feldman in an intense championship match.

Feldman wasted no time in taking Hanning down right off the whistle. A stunned Hanning quickly gathered himself, however and escaped.

The contact seemed to calm Hanning as he hit a clutch edge-of-the-mat take down which unsettled his opponent and then gave a hard ride for the rest of the first period which appeared to sap Feldman’s energy.

In the second period, Hanning chose the bottom position but quickly escaped to go up 4-2. He then countered a Feldman leg attack with a “Spladle” move for the pin 35 seconds into the period, ending the match.

“I had my plan going in and then he shot right away,” said Hanning, who admitted he felt a lot of nerves before the day started. “I didn’t expect that. He surprised me.”

And Hanning surprised everyone, including his father.

“I’d be really excited to just see Aiden place in the top eight and reach his goal of becoming a middle school All American,” Mike Hanning said before the event began last weekend. “There are some really tough kids out there.”

But the toughest proved to be Aiden Hanning, who said he hopes to wrestle for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes some day. But for now, he’s celebrating a middle school national title, a first for the MYA program.