Chapin junior Stuart Hope admits having an undefeated record has added a little pressure to his bid for a second consecutive state wrestling championship.
"People come up and ask me all the time about (being undefeated)," said Hope, who brings a 52-0 record into the 112-pound field at the Class 3A state tournament that starts tonight and concludes on Saturday at Rock Hill High School.
"It's something I just try to put out of my mind, but it's there. I don't think it will be a distraction once I start wrestling. I'll be aggressive and go for it. But if I don't get it, it will be a huge disappointment."
Motivation has been key to Hope's success.
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He qualified for state as a freshman at 103, but did not place when he lost by one point in the consolation semifinals.
"That was tough, losing like that in my last match that kept me from placing, but it showed me an area that I had to improve on and that's what I worked at in my sophomore year," he said.
Hope's inability to score from the neutral position was his downfall in that 2008 loss. By the next year, he was vastly improved.
Though he has yet to be mastered this season, Hope already is planning how to be better next season.
"I have to become better at pinning guys because there were matches this season when the team needed me to pin and I didn't get it," he said.
"In the lighter weights, pinning is more about technique, going through the right sequence of moves. I'll be going though those moves over and over in the practice room until I get them down."
Eagles coach Scott Harmon said Hope's dedication and attention to detail make him stand apart.
"He's very dedicated in the practice room and is a team leader by the example he sets," Harmon said.
"Stuart isn't afraid to admit he has room to improve in some areas, and he'll work hard at making adjustments. His style is to attack, and his conditioning allows him to keep it up throughout a full match. He scores a lot of points, but he also knows that to help the team he has to become more of a pinner. I expect to see more pins from him next year."
Hope brings a career 121-21 record into state. Last year, he went 40-6 on the way to winning the 103 title.
If he is successful this weekend, Hope has a chance to become the school's third three-time state champion, matching the career accomplishments of Jeremy Mosley (1997-200) and Jason Hazzard (1995-97).