He finished second in several tournaments this year, but never championed his weight class.
That changed at a good time, as Castle Rock’s Austin McQuilliams (160 pounds) pinned his finals opponent and stood tallest on the podium at the Trico 1A Sub-Regional Tournament on Saturday in La Center.
The trick may have been simple. He wrestled guys in his weight class instead of guys who are notably heavier.
“I would go through a tournament and do pretty good, but that finals match always caught me,” McQuilliams said. “I took second in the last five tournament appearances at 170. They were really good guys I lost to. This tournament, I didn’t want to give up this time. I decided I’m done with second place, and I’m going to go for it all.”
Only a sophomore, he’s had quite the season considering the step up in weight class.
“He gave up 10 to 12 pounds in every tournament,” coach Joe Godinho said. “Even though he got thrown for five, he powered out of it. And that’s the difference between wrestling 170 to 160.”
It’s been a rough year for McQuilliams still. The grind of the season, and the sport, is tough on it’s own. Being close enough to first that it’s one throw away and not getting there is about as painful as some of the injuries that come with wrestling. So the sub-regional podium felt pretty good.
“After you lose a finals match, you get pretty bummed,” McQuilliams said. “You made it that far and couldn’t finish it all the way. My coaches told me to keep my head up because they really liked how much I’ve improved. They told me keep it up, keep fighting all six minutes, and I used those today and it really came out.”
McQuilliams is one of Rock’s up-and-coming wrestlers, only three years into the sport, he’s showing the potential to make a run through the state bracket soon. He went to state as an alternate in his freshman year.
“He’s so quick and athletic. They just can’t keep up with him because he’s powering through everything. He was intimidated as a freshman, and he gets hit hard in practice with Wayne (Baker), and Buddy Kayser,” Godinho said. “He’s had a tough room, and that’s the key to getting better: tough competition against who you wrestle everyday.”
Castle Rock tallied 11 total wrestlers in the final round. Wayne Baker (170) finished first Saturday, as did Peyton Watts (195).
Ethan Erickson (113), Ryan Marcil (126), Cameron Wason (138), Coleman Darvell (152), Dakota Gottschalk (170), Noah Shelton (182), Austin Curtis (220) and Michael Clark (285) finished second.
Castle Rock finished first as a team with 331, and host La Center was second with 190.