Meet the 2019 State Wrestling Participants
This year's state tournament featured five wrestlers representing the Atlantic-CAM program.
February 23, 2019
After a tough three days of competition, the troupe of five Atlantic wrestlers left the 2019 State wrestling tournament with two place-winners: seniors Chase McLaren (138) and Connor Pellett (152). McLaren made it to finals and finished in the runner-up position, while Pellett made it to the podium in eighth. Efforts made by junior Cale Roller (220), sophomore Joe Weaver (120) and freshman Garrett McLaren (106) weren’t quite enough for a podium finish, but each wrestler plans to return to the tournament and earn a spot in the top eight.
Future Grandview Viking, senior Chase McLaren said, “I feel like the sport of wrestling has really shaped me into the person that I am.” Finishing his high school career with over 200 wins, four conference titles and four years of qualifying for state, he will continue wrestling in college and hopes to win a national title after falling short of a state title. Winning his semifinal match at state, McLaren said he will never forget “looking up at everyone in the stands.” Going into the finals, he said he tried to keep his nerves under control and knew he needed to “do what I prepared for my entire life.” Along with making history in the Trojan community and Iowa, McLaren finished his senior season with a record of 81-9, with 51 pins. Wrestling for the Atlantic-CAM Trojans has meant a lot to him, and realizing that his time in the program is over is “a really emotional thing.” Being a wrestler has taught McLaren hard work and dedication, and “everything I do, I feel like I do it like a wrestler.”
Qualifying for the second time in two years, senior Connor Pellett came back to the state tournament with one goal in mind: winning a medal. “I knew from the beginning that that’s what my goal was gonna be: do better at state than I did last year.” Compared to the 2018 tournament, when he was just “happy to be there” and even a little intimidated by the unfamiliar atmosphere, Pellett changed his mindset this go around and was there to “take care of business.” However, this didn’t stop him from having fun and enjoying the experience. “I was focused but I also felt good. I was positive, it was great,” Pellett said, revealing that he even danced during warm-ups. Reaching his goal and getting to “come home with a souvenir,” he said he “made it a point to smile the whole time” while on the podium.
With 29 pins, a record of 56-23 and an eighth-place state finish to end his senior year and wrestling career, Pellett said what he has learned in wrestling will never be forgotten. “I’ll take them with me into situations for the rest of my life.” He also earned his fourth and final Iron Man, which is an award given to those who never miss a practice or other wrestling-related activity, and he is the only one to do so. Pellett credits head coach Tim Duff and the Atlantic-CAM wrestling program for having a great impact on his life. “What Tim Duff has done to me cannot be put into words,” he said. Pellett also expressed how there is nothing else that can make someone into “as tough or as resilient or as respectable in the community as being a Trojan wrestler.”
As a first-time individual state participant, junior Cale Roller said qualifying was like “the best feeling in the world.” It had been one of his goals throughout the season, along with placing at state. With one of his two goals not met, he plans to keep working and eventually become a state champion. Roller finished his junior year with a record of 59-24, 37 of those being pins. Competing at the state level might be nerve-wracking for some, but according to Roller, “You gotta get that first jitters out of the way, and once you get that out of the way it’s pretty easy.” As a freshman, he was able to participate in the 2017 state team duals. Compared to competing as an individual, there is quite a difference. “There are a lot more people in the stands, and then it’s you wrestling for you and not your team,” Roller said. In the future, he plans to take what he’s learned from this year’s tournament and not make the same mistakes he feels that he made. Roller conveyed that the Atlantic-CAM wrestling program has a good work ethic and is the “best program around.” He said, “We have something really special with our fan base and in the room.”
After an upset at sectionals last year, sophomore Joe Weaver finally reached his goal of state this season. Competing for the first time, he said the amount of people at the event causes some nerves, and “it’s hard to take it all in.” However, Weaver knew what he needed to do and appreciated the experience as best as he could while staying focused. In the next two years of his high school career, he would like to return to the state tournament and eventually stand on the podium as a place-winner. Weaver finished his sophomore season with 33 pins in a record of 45-16. Acknowledging the closeness of members of the Atlantic-CAM wrestling team, Weaver said, “If you have anything to talk about, you can talk to one of the wrestlers and they’ll understand.”
From the beginning of his first year of wrestling at the high school level, freshman Garrett McLaren said his goal was to qualify for the state tournament. As the season progressed, he added another goal to the list: place at state. Although his second goal may not have been accomplished, McLaren has three more years to reach the podium and achieve additional goals set. He would like to be a state place-winner as a sophomore and become a state champion before he graduates. McLaren finished his freshman season with a record of 36-17, with 20 pins.
Leading up to the state tournament, he said he “could barely sit in my seat for class,” and nervously paced in the hotel room. However, when the group arrived at the Wells Fargo Arena, he began to truly realize the situation and appreciate the experience. “I looked up at my family and everyone else from Atlantic in the suite and just smiled with joy that I had gotten there and they were watching me,” McLaren said.
Being able to wrestle and qualify for state with his oldest brother was also very special for McLaren. “It made me realize how much he’s influenced me as a wrestler and a person.” Along with the guidance from his brother, he said the wrestling staff for the Atlantic-CAM Trojans are the best and “will do anything they can to make you the best that you can be.” He also pointed out the appreciation he has for the support the community gives the wrestlers. “People that don’t even have kids wrestling come and supported us at tournaments outside of Atlantic, and that means a lot.”