ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — As we inch closer to February, a pivotal month in high school wrestling, Jake Cline is determined to be in Salem and become a state champion again.
Last year, the Glenvar grappler was the defending state title holder before he was upset in the semifinals.
“I’ve been on a mission ever since getting upset,” Cline said.
Cline has plenty of memories as a high school wrestler. From winning a state title as a sophomore to falling short of defending that title as a junior.
“Last year was obviously pretty disappointing, losing one match the whole year and coming up short but it just drove me even more,” Cline said. “I put more work in and I’m ready to show it come February.”
Finishing third in Class 2 a year ago was enough to motivate Cline. He added weight in the offseason, moving up from the 132 pound weight class to 157. Now, he’s using the pain of his only loss of his junior year to push him farther as a senior.
“I just use it as motivation so if I get tired in practice or I start not feeling very good, I just think, ‘well that doesn’t win you state and you saw what happened last year.’ I just think of my hand not getting raised. So it just motivates me,” Cline said.
His dad is also a motivating factor, doubling as the Highlanders’ head coach. Jason Cline remains a source of inspiration for his son.
“He won two at Grundy, state titles. (I’m) trying to get my second to even it out,” Cline said. It puts more pressure on me I guess. He’s always around, he’s always watching and stuff. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. He’s my biggest supporter. Always in my corner.”
A wrestler since the age of six, Cline has a competitive spirit that’s practically second nature to him when he steps on to the mat.
“You’re very focused. You don’t hear or see anything around you. It’s just you and that one person. Just you in the circle and that’s what I love about it. I don’t have to rely on anyone else buy myself so that’s why I got into the sport,” Cline said.
And in a few weeks, Cline hopes his passion and dedication to the sport will pay off in the form of his second state title in three years.
“It would mean the world. That’s what I’m going for right now. I’m locked in,” Cline said. “I put the work in, gonna continue it and we’ll see in February if I’m on top of the podium.”