As Commerce High School wrestler Chance McClure stepped out on the mat at the GHSA state individual wrestling tournament for the first time on Friday, it was abundantly clear that he was no stranger to the scene.
McClure looked calm, collected and poised as he shook hands with his first opponent, Eugene McClure (no relation) of Mt. Zion. One minute and 15 seconds later, (Chance) McClure had his opponent pinned and was already thinking about his next bout.
McClure pinned his next opponent in three minutes and moved on to the state finals where his opponent quickly conceded, securing an unprecedented third state title for the junior Tiger – one in the 195 lb. weight class, and two in his current 220 lb. class.
The victory moved McClure’s individual record to 47-0 on the season, and approximately 160-2 in his career.
Wrestling coach Kendall Love said he is thrilled to continue to be in McClure’s corner of the mat.
“Chance has had an outstanding career,” sad Love. “He hasn’t lost since the first tournament of his freshman year. He does everything you ask him to do and has a great work ethic and attitude. He is a dream to coach. He truly has a bright future ahead of him.”
While the pressure of being a reigning state champion might cause others to cave or slip up, McClure went into this year’s state tournament in Macon with a robust sense of confidence.
“It wasn’t near the competition that it would have been,” McClure said, referring to the addition of the AAAAAA class to the GHSA. “It was not as tough of a road to the state championship as last year.”
Even so, it’s doubtful that tougher competition would have slowed McClure down.
After all, he has been training year-round for most of his life, rarely taking any time off.
“I’ve put in so much time since I was younger, and it really carries over,” he added. “You can learn so much at that young age. You just keep going and keep doing the same things you have been doing and get better. I never stop trying to get better.”
McClure seems fully intent on carrying that philosophy over to this offseason as he sets his sights on a fourth state title.
“It would really mean a lot to get in that elite group (four state titles),” he said. “You have to fight though a lot – be healthy for four years. There’s a lot of folks who have been able to do it, but others have fallen in one match. You have to be on point in every single match in the state tournament, or it’s just not going to happen for you.”
In the meantime, he plans on training hard and wrestling in several nationwide freestyle and Greco tournaments throughout the summer, including the High School National Championship and the prestigious Junior National Championship in Fargo, ND.
“After this week, I’ll be right back in the room again until August and won’t take much time off,” he said. “Training really slacks off during the season, because I push myself so hard during the offseason.”
McClure is seeing his relentless training paying off as he has several division I NCAA schools scouting him as a junior.
While McClure is itching to get a shot at his fourth state individual title, he also keeps team accomplishments in mind.
While pleased with a third-place Tiger finish in class A this year, McClure says next season’s team is going to be “the real deal.”
“The kids we’ve got coming up – if we get them really developed into high school wrestlers – I’d put us up against anybody. Anybody in the state of Georgia will fear Commerce. No one will want to wrestle us. I can guarantee you that.”
McClure’s state title helped propel the Tigers into third place in the class A team championship.
Of the eight Tigers who qualified for the state finals, seven placed, allowing the Tigers to rack up 104 team points, third behind Gordon Lee (187) and Holy Innocents’ (171), both of which brought over 10 finalist to state competition.
“Our guys wrestled really well,” said head coach Kendall Love. “That’s about as good as we could have done with the numbers that we had. I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the guys. We put four in the state finals – that’s the most since I’ve been here.”
Freshman Michael Patton (29-17, 126 lb.), sophomore Trent Reddish (34-9, 170 lb.) and junior Greyson Cochran (40-12, 160 lb.) all finished as state runners-up in their respective weight classes.
Sophomore Cole Sweeney (27-17, 182 lb.) earned a fourth-place finish, while junior Morgan Flint (27-6, 195 lb.) placed fifth. Senior Joshua Westmoreland (30-19, 138 lb.) rounded out the Tigers’ state finalists with a sixth-place finish.
Although Love feels that this wrestling season was a success, he believes “the future of Commerce wrestling is looking bright.”
“The good news is that all four finalists are back next year,” he said.
In fact, Commerce will return six of its seven state placers, not to mention bringing in a strong freshman class with excellent potential.
“We’ve got some high-quality wrestlers coming up next year that will be in ninth grade that will fill the slots we were missing next year,” said Love. “There’s no doubt that we will have a full lineup next year. We will have a quality kid in every single weight class. That bodes very well for our future.”