January 29, 2011 in Washington Voices

Earning it with every step

U-Hi’s Matlock’s wrestling success hasn’t come easy
Steve Christilaw wurdsmith2002@msn.com
 
J. BART RAYNIAK photo

University High School wrestling coach Don Owen, right, demonstrates a “stand-up escape” with senior Brandon Matlock during practice Wednesday. A two-time state placer, Matlock is one of most admired and respected leaders in the wrestling room.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Stillness is a foreign state for Brandon Matlock.

Even at rest, the University High senior wrestler operates at a fast idle, and the unused RPMs keep him, if not moving per se, then at least vibrating. He’s a human perpetual motion machine.

It’s not that Matlock fidgets, and the constant movement isn’t a nervous tic. But it is what makes him tick – he’s a living example of Newtonian wrestling physics: a wrestler in motion tends to stay in motion.

“I’m just kind of this way naturally,” he says. “It works for me. I’m always working to make myself a better wrestler, make myself stronger. And it’s how I make my weight.”

Matlock does not have a weight problem in the conventional sense. At a natural 125 pounds, he has the lean, hungry look of a well-honed athlete. But that’s always been the problem – there was no place for him to wrestle as a 125-pounder.

“Brandon is one of those kids who, even when he first came in as a freshman, always had one or two kids ahead of him who were just a little bit better than he was,” University wrestling coach Don Owen explained. “I’ve never had a young man sacrifice as much as Brandon has in order to help his team. He’s always had to cut a bunch of weight, but you’d never hear a word about it from him. I have never heard him complain about anything – in fact, he’s the first one to volunteer if we need someone to do something.”

As a freshman and again as a sophomore, that meant dropping 20 percent of his body weight to wrestle at 103 pounds, where he placed seventh at state in 2009.

Last year, in helping his teammates win the Class 4A state championship, Matlock placed eighth at 112 pounds.

Even as a senior, he’s cutting weight to fill the spot at 119 pounds, where he’s ranked No. 3 in the state for Class 3A.

He came through Thursday night with a momentum-changing 3-2 victory at 119 helping the Titans defeat Central Valley 35-20 in a battle of unbeatens for the GSL championship.

And it’s a full-time job for him to get to 119.

“I get up at 5 a.m. and I’m at school by 6,” Matlock explained. “I run the halls for an hour before class starts. I eat six small meals a day – I don’t drink pop because I don’t like it and I hate junk food because it makes my stomach hurt. I lift weights. I work out with my teammates after school, and in the evenings I go for another run, depending on how my weight is doing that day.”

In between tasks, Matlock runs.

“I’ve never seen any kid work harder in the weight room,” Owen said. “He’s always running between stations. He’s always had a job and when I talked to his employer, they say the same thing. He’s always running to do something.”

He runs because he loves his sport and his teammates are like family to him. And he runs because he believes his dream of being a collegiate wrestler is within his reach.

“I fell in love with wrestling as a little kid,” Matlock explained. “My sister and I both turned out for the little kids wrestling program. I was 6, and I loved how you had to push yourself all the time to make yourself better. You have to constantly challenge yourself.”

Matlock continually meets those challenges.

“He’s not a physically gifted athlete the way some kids are,” Owen said. “He’s had to work hard every step of the way, and I think his teammates respect him because of how hard he works. He’s a leader by example. He’s a quiet leader. And he’s a servant leader.”

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