DES MOINES — Chase McCleish might be what you call a late bloomer in wrestling.
He didn’t decide to try the sport until he was in seventh grade, and even then, he wasn’t completely sold on the idea.
“My brother told me I should go out,” McCleish recalled. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to go out for that sport. It seems too hard.’ But it’s awesome (now and I love it.”
And why shouldn’t when he’s having an experience like he has this week at the state wrestling tournament.
McCleish had never wrestled inside Wells Fargo Arena in the prestigious tournament, and he’s proved the lights weren’t too bright. After a win in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinals, McCleish guaranteed himself a medal, and he accomplished a dream in the process.
The better part? He got to share that dream with classmate and teammate Jacob McBride.
After McCleish’s 2-0 win in the quarterfinals vs. Southeast Warren’s TJ Dierking, McBride met McCleish in the tunnel inside the arena and the two shared a big hug celebrating moving on together.
“We just dreamed about getting here,” McCleish said. “We said, ‘We get here, then we’ll get something done.’ It’s awesome that we were able to get here and still get something done.”
McBride forged his own path to the semifinals Friday with a come-from-behind 6-3 decision vs. Southwest Valley’s Teagan Lundquist. McBride erased a 3-2 deficit in the third period, and also permanently wiped the memories of an 0-2 performance last year at state.
“Last year is nothing anymore. I just have to keep going,” McBride said after Friday’s quarterfinals. “This is unbelievable and I’m meant to be here.”
Remembering this run will be the least of their worries.
Newman puts all its state qualifying wrestlers on its board in the high school gym, which McCleish said is cool in itself, but it’s something in the wrestling room which he’s most excited about.
“The board is special, but now in our wrestling room we have pictures of all the state placewinners, so I get my picture up there now and that’s awesome,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of people who have wrestled for Newman and we all love Coach Bertsch. Everybody is always working hard, and we’re not always the best technicians, but we’re working hard for sure.”