At the start of the season, Central head wrestling coach Bill Wilson felt as though he had a team with talent enough to challenge for a top spot at the state tournament.
As many a coach’s best laid plans go, a few of Central’s stronger wrestlers failed to make it to the state tournament, for one reason or another.
But, the three Chargers who did find their way to Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center last month all placed and pushed Central to a top 10 finish, as the team tied for sixth place.
All three of those wrestlers will be back next season and are already focused on improving personally and helping other young teammates earn their way to the state meet and vault the Chargers to an even higher finish.
De Mone McClinton will be a senior next year, Blaine Martinez will be a junior, and Jacob Hart will be just a sophomore.
McClinton came away with a sixth-place finish at 126 this season, finishing 45-17, in his best year thus far, although he’s been in the sport for just three years.
His progress has been huge, as McClinton didn’t even get out of the district meet qualifying last year.
“All the hard work has paid off,” McClinton said, “and being able to accomplish something like that, especially after not getting past the first step last year, is really great.”
As with his teammates, McClinton plans to continue to improve his skills in the offseason and summer by entering the Greco Roman and freestyle events at the end of the month.
After the season of maintaining his weight, McClinton admitted that part of his celebration included a bit of indulging.
“I think I put on 20 pounds in four days,” he said.
McClinton lost a second round match at state by just one point and finished second at regionals to the eventual state champ. He expects to claim the top spot for himself in his senior year.
Martinez, who finished third in the state this season at 120, said he feels all three of the Chargers can improve their position next year. Such positioning should boost Central up the standings, too.
“We can get more state qualifiers and placers out of our wrestling room,” Martinez said.
As one of the team captains, Martinez said they will help the younger wrestlers train to achieve those goals.
“We’ve got the room to improve and the talent to do it,” Martinez said.
For freshman Hart, he’ll be starting his 10th year in the sport, a product of the Keller Wrestling Academy among other groups which have helped boost the sport locally.
A fourth-place finisher at 113, Hart is planning almost a full month of wrestling camp in Minnesota.
“I hope to qualify for the Cadet Duals for Team Texas,” Hart said of the event in Pennsylvania this summer.
He admits his time in Greco Roman and freestyle has significantly contributed to his collegiate-style talents.
“It’s almost like another sport,” he said, but feels the added dimension of hip pressure and positioning aided his season.
“We did really well this year,” Hart added, noting Central brought three wrestlers to the state meet and all three placed. “It’s probably one of Central’s best teams.”
Hart also noted there are several freshmen who could excel in the coming year, and the experienced guys on the team will be looked to for leadership.
The Chargers lose quality seniors such as Qu’Ron Sims and Jonathon Bowen, among others.
“I wish we would have had more kids at state,” Wilson said. “But we did great, and I can’t complain. We’ve got all three state placers coming back and it’s something to build on.”