Billy Ward feels comfortable in the Buena Regional High School wrestling room.
Sometimes when he gets a break during the school day, the senior just goes to the room and thinks.
"I've always loved that room," Ward said. "I've practiced in that room my whole life. It's like my second home."
The 126-pounder is one of the region's top wrestlers this season. He is 20-3 and Buena is the No. 5 seed in the South Jersey Group I tournament and will wrestle at fourth-seeded Collingswood on Monday. The winner will face top-seeded Paulsboro on Wednesday.
Ward, 18, is a three-time District 32 and Region 8 champion. He finished third in the state as a sophomore at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City in 2011. Ward returned to Atlantic City as a junior but failed to make the podium.
He comes from a wrestling family. His father, Bill, was a long-time Buena assistant who is now the St. Augustine Prep head coach. Ward is the second of five children.
The younger Ward plans to wrestle in college but has not yet made a decision on a school.
In an interview Tuesday night, Ward spoke about a number of topics, including wrestling in Atlantic City and his career plans.
On how he started wrestling: My dad was always a coach. My mom always says I grew up in the (Buena) gym. I got started when I was around 6 or 7 years old. At first, to be honest, I wasn't really that into it. But as I got older it kind of started to click and I enjoyed it.
On the individual nature of wrestling: It's awesome. It's not like a baseball game or a football game where you can pawn it off on someone else. It's you and your opponent, one-on-one, in-your-face. All you can rely on is yourself. That's what makes it unique. It's a toughness game. There's nothing else like it. You have to be physically and mentally tough.
On wrestling in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City: It's what every wrestler looks forward to all year. When you get to A.C., it's all you. You have to embrace the fans, embrace the crowd. You have to feed off it. You can't let it get to you. That's the cool thing about it.
On his dad coaching St. Augustine Prep, which is a big Buena rival: It hasn't been a big deal for me. He asked me before he took the job what I thought of it. I gave him the go-ahead and told him I wanted him to do it. It really hasn't been anything different. He's still there for me. I still consider him one of my coaches.
On expectations for his senior year: I try to feed off expectations and use it to my advantage. I try not to let it get to me and take it one match at a time. I just try to do my thing out there. If you worry too much, it will get to you. It will bring your game down.
On whether there are future wrestlers in the family: My little brother year-old Luke) will probably be a wrestler. He's a little monster.
On his career plans: I would like to be a State Trooper or do something in law enforcement. It's something that I can see myself doing, and it's something I think I would excel at.
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