Max Tate, Molalla's state champion
When Max Tate began the season, he was on a mission to reach the state title. Over the course of the season he lost just three matches according to trackwrestling.com, and avenged one of them against North Medford's Enrique Jaime.
After storming through opponent after opponent, and dominating in the district meet, Tate entered the state tournament in the 126-pound as the No. 1 seed. Heading into the championship weekend, Tate didn't do anything extraordinary in practice to prepare for his opposition. Business as usual for the impending champion.
"I didn't want to change the lead up a bunch because I've been successful all year. I go to All Phase in West Linn a couple of days, and I was pretty good on weight so I didn't have to worry about that. I've been losing weight weirdly, I don't know why. I've got weird health stuff all the time, so I'm hoping it's not something to do with that."
The "weird health stuff" that Tate referenced is an inability to catch his breath at rest on occasion. Luckily for Tate, that never translated to his exertions on the mat over the course of the season. It showed, as Tate controlled his first two opponents in the state tournament in dominant fashion.
Tate got the technical fall against La Grande's Cole Isaacson 17-0 at 3:51 of the match, and then pinned Ontario's Trey Trejo in just 33 seconds. That wrapped up the first day of competition, one where Tate was able to live in the moment a little bit.
"I was more excited than anything because I knew my first day wasn't going to be that tough of a day," Tate said. "I was just going to get the first day over with. I was seeded No. 1, so I had the worst two kids in the bracket. That 33 second pin was a kid I had already pinned earlier in the season, and he was scared of me. Completely. I went to shake his hand and he flinched."
Heading into the semifinal matchup with Sweet Home's Robert Watkins, Tate got more in the zone. Warming up with a teammate from wrestling club All-Phase, Tate stayed ready physically by going through drills and jogging continuously. On top of being prepared physically, Tate was able to stay ready mentally thanks to some masterful salesmanship on his part.
"Our coach had us write this little commercial thing, I had it on my phone," Tate said. "Basically, reminding yourself of everything you need to do and why you should be successful. That's my coach at All-Phase. I read it to myself and I was ready to go."
That commercial read like this:
'Maximus Tate, meet Maximus Tate. Dedicated student to the sport of wrestling. Max, you are one of the fiercest competitors in the country, so think like you are. You've wrestled more than half your life, so wrestle like you have been. You're supported by everyone that means anything to you. But don't do it for them, do it for yourself.'
And sure enough, Tate did it. The semifinals always see the most intense and difficult matchups of the tournament as both athletes look to get to the finals of their brackets. This year was no different, but Molalla's 126-pounder was able to handle the pressure his opponent brought.
"The semifinals match is the toughest match," Tate said. "That will make or break your entire weekend. You're either going to get second, at worst, if you win, or you're going to get sixth, at worst, if you lose that match. The kid came out stronger in that match than he did in the rest of his tournament."
"He did wrestle very well after that, but he came out tough against me," Tate continued about his semifinal opponent. "He got the first takedown, and rode me out the first round. He picked both up because he thought he could take me down again, but then I turned him, I think once. I had a little bit of a lead. Then I chose down and escaped and took him down."
The rest of the match was history. Tate defeated Watkins by a 7-3 decision, and advanced to the state finals. In that final matchup of the high school season, Tate saw a strange coincidence in the matchup with La Grande freshman Braden Carson.
"What's funny is that kid is a freshman, and my freshman year I wrestled a junior," Tate said. "He was literally in the exact same position I was, so that gave me a lot of confidence because I kind of choked my freshman year when I did that. I think the only point I gave up against him was I let him go once."
Tate got the job done in a dominant 8-1 decision, and had secured the state championship. Molalla showed up in support, and so did the family. Tears were shed, security was pushed past, and they got to celebrate with their son and Molalla's champion.
The feeling was surreal, according to Tate.
"I don't even know how to describe the feeling of winning," Tate said. "It felt great, that's the only thing I can say."
With high school wrestling behind him, Tate turns his attention to club wrestling and tournament matches. But looking ahead to his senior year, and his final season of wrestling with Molalla High School, Tate has a new goal that he wants to shoot for. A sterling record.
"I want to have an undefeated season, I think that's a good goal," Tate said. "I already beat the 5A state champion from this year. I haven't wrestled the other ones, but they graduated though. I think it's attainable. Especially with our schedule. I don't think it'll change that much. The toughest tournament is the Coast Classic and that's where I lost my two matches this year. As long as I wrestle well, I don't think I have anything to worry about it."