Wrestlers all over the state have to sacrifice weekends with family, trips to fast food joints with friends and must endure endless hours of work on the mat in order to do it all over again and keep wrestling into the Valentine’s Day weekend.
Five Shoemaker wrestlers will take the mat against the best in Texas at the UIL State Wrestling Championships at the Garland ISD Curtis Caldwell Center.
“This culminated in what they strive for,” Shoemaker head coach Ken Soloff said. “Everyone wants to go to state and 16 kids in each weight class make it.”
The state meet gets underway Friday and concludes on Saturday.
The girls trio of Maya Little, Harmony Maitland and Anne Ford will compete at the girls meet while Darnell Everett and Khalil Bryant will participate in the boys meet.
Little (25-3), a senior, will compete in the 128-pound division, Maitland will compete in the 165-pound division and Ford will go in the 185-pound division.
Everett (16-4) will compete in the 152-pound division while Bryant (38-8) will wrestle the other 182-pounders.
Little knows that her days as a prep wrestler are numbered and wants to make the most out of this final competition.
“I’m super nervous, but I feel like I’m prepared for what’s going to happen,” Little said. “I’ve been working hard this whole season and I’m just excited for what’s to come.”
Last year, Little opened the tournament with a loss to eventual state champion Taylor Alva from Cy Woods, but went 1-1 in the consolation bracket. She opens the 2014 state tournament against Arlington’s Elizabeth Taylor.
Like Little, Maitland and Ford are making return trips to state.
Maitland was 0-2 at last year’s state meet. She faces Cypress Springs’ Siandra Amaya.
Although Maitland, a junior, has made it to state twice, she still has that fire to keep improving and stay at the top of her game.
“I’m never relaxed when it comes to wrestling,” Maitland said. “Even though I’m good and I’m getting better every day, there’s still somebody that can come who’s out to get me and wrestling’s unpredictable as is, so you always have to come with you’re ‘A’ game and your head on straight.”
Meanwhile, Ford said this season she would be more prepared for the pressure that comes with making it to state.
“I was nervous,” Ford said. “I felt like everybody was better than me and I was going to fail. I got two losses and one win. I guess I kind of felt good at the end of it.”
Ford fell to eventual state runner-up Nicola Newton last year before going 1-1 in the consolation bracket. Ford opens the state tournament against Plano East junior Adelita Munoz.
Shoemaker’s Dineesha Jones was the state’s silver medal winner in the 110-pound division at last year’s meet and Soloff said he expects the girls to go into the state tournament with less nervousness this weekend.
“The motivation’s there, its state, but they’ll be more relaxed,” Soloff said. “They know what it takes to win there. They saw a teammate last year be successful there and they’ve worked hard all year to get there.”
Although the girls bring some experience on the big stage, Everett and Bryant qualified for state for the first time.
For Everett, the trip was a culmination of years of hard work, but he’s still taking in the accomplishment.
“It’s a dream come true,” Everett said. “I never would imagine making it to state. It’s a long road, it’s just a good feeling.”
Everett faces Klein’s Michael Oramas, who has a 40-1 record coming into the state tournament.
Bryant has been wrestling for three years, but clinching a trip to state gave him an unforgettable moment.
“Words can’t even describe it,” Bryant said. “I cried, called my mom up and cried. I was like a firework in the sky.”
He enters his final meet for the Grey Wolves by facing Allen’s Tracy Eital in the opening round.
Shoemaker seniors Ruthie Edwin and Deedrah Cattouse are alternates at the state meet. Edwin (29-8) is an alternate in the 119-pound division while Cattouse (35-7) is an alternate in the 138-pound division.
The Class 5A first round through semifinals begin at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. The consolation third round through third place match begins on Saturday at 8 a.m. with the championship boys and girls finals beginning at 5:30 p.m.