When Metrolina Christian senior Cannon Long tore his lateral meniscus and suffered a severe concussion after going 24-1 and winning the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association wrestling championship to end his sophomore season, a part of him thought he wouldn’t step on the mat again.
“I was totally burned out at the end of my sophomore year,” Long said. “It was rough.”
After grabbing the state title in the 195-pound division, Long sat on the sideline during his junior year. Struggling with whether or not he should return to the mat, Long, who’s been wrestling since the age of 5, said he did some soul-searching. That led him to the conclusion that he was meant to wrestle – regardless of the injuries, the emotion and the countless hours of dedication which would come with it.
“Sitting out last year was rough,” he said. “I was going back and forth on whether or not I should try to play football in college instead of wrestle. But after a while I realized that wrestling is my thing. I was on the fence before my injuries but once they happened, I knew I needed to sit out a season, do some soul-searching and come back stronger.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
Long came back with new energy, more determined than ever to make his senior season his best yet. After finishing the regular season 41-0 with 21 pins, Long – who only had three points scored on him all season – blew through the NCSIAA state wrestling tournament in High Point. He fought his way to the championship round and then won the state title, winning his match in less than 35 seconds.
His stellar performances earned him the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the state finals. He went on to represent North Carolina at the Prep Nationals Tournament at Lehigh University (Pa.) where he finished in sixth place and was named a High School All-American.
With all his accomplishments on the mat, Long also is the 2014 Union County Weekly Wrestler of the Year.
“It’s been such a grind,” Long said of his wrestling career at Metrolina. “I’ve been lucky to have a lot of support from my mom, my dad and my grandparents. They were at every match and I definitely had the largest cheering section. On my way home from Nationals, I was so happy and jolly after it was all over. My mom was in the front seat of the car and said that it looked like I’d been pumped up with life. It’s kind of true – it’s been a long road.”
Long will graduate Metrolina as one of the school’s most decorated athletes and even though he’s seemingly accomplished it all, he’s not ready to leave the mat just yet. His performance at Nationals garnered him attention from several collegiate programs and he’s already been offered scholarship money from a few. Though he’s still unsure where he’ll end up, he knows that wrestling is in his future – especially after he’s dedicated the majority of his young life to the sport.
The All-American wrestler took up after his dad, who was a bronze medalist for Piedmont when he was in high school, and said that even though wrestling may not be the most popular sport, it’s become his passion over the years and that’s something he isn’t ready to give up.
“Wrestling is the least praised sport out there,” Long said. “It’s the most emotional sport. It’s your whole body and it’s a grind on your soul. There’s zero glamour in wrestling. It’s just you against someone else. There’s no one you can blame – in football you can blame your teammates or the coaches – but in wrestling it’s all
“My dad always says that it’s the most pure sport out there. I agree with that 100 percent.”