by Justin Martinez | Sports Writer
The school bell rings and classes have ended. Students walk to the bus stop and go to teachers for after school tutoring. However, junior Jeremiah McCutcheon heads to the gym and starts preparing for the biggest wrestling tournament of his career yet.
After a successful run at regionals, the Jaguars’ varsity wrestling team has managed to send five wrestlers to the state tournament. Although the tournament isn’t set to start until February 22, the team is already fully focused on the task at hand.
“We’ve got a good strong group of boys this year and we’re definitely ready for state. We’ve got a lot of integrity and we continue to do our drills at full power even when the coach has to step out during practice. It’s that kind of hard work that makes us so good,” McCutcheon said.
Just qualifying for the tournament is a testament to how hard these wrestlers have worked during both the offseason and the regular season. The long hours and vigorous practices have amounted to a golden opportunity for those that will be participating in this year’s state tournament.
“It feels great to make it to state. I’ve been lifting more and practicing harder to prepare for it. The workouts have been pretty tough but in the end it’s all worth it,” sophomore Orlando Alderete said.
Amongst the five Johnson state qualifiers are brothers Jeremiah McCutcheon and senior Tim McCutcheon. With Tim McCutcheon graduating, the state tournament will be the last time that the brothers will lace up and put on the light blue and white uniforms together. After the tournament, they will no longer compete side by side for the highly accomplished program that is the Johnson Jaguar wrestling team.
“It’s kind of funny because I’ve always treated every game like its my last, but this time it actually is going to be my last match as a Jaguar. It’s going to be a weird feeling but I still have to go out there and do my best,” Tim said.
In addition to these seniors, freshman Patrick Vega will compete at the state tournament as well. Although the underclassmen will still have three years of eligibility remaining after this season, it is never too early to start competing at a high level such as state.
“I’m kind of used to being the youngest member of the team already. To me its not really a big deal. My teammates don’t treat me differently because I’ve already wrestled with them in clubs and leagues outside of school,” Vega said.
Whether the competitor is an experienced upperclassmen or an underclassmen who is still finding his way through the halls, the name on the front of their jerseys are the same and all of them plan to give nothing short of their best effort at the state tournament.
“It takes a lot of hard work, late nights, and a tough mentality to get to where we are right now. Now that we’re here, we’re going to make sure that we play hard and make a statement,” Tim said.