Senior Michael Aldrich slams his entire body down on the mat. In mere seconds, he will have to launch himself back up over a rolling partner. After several rounds, the repetitive process becomes exhausting. Once upright, Aldrich faintly utters “so tired” under his breath. But even through pain and fatigue, he powers through to finish the drill.
Aldrich’s three-hour practices might be seen as “grunt work” to most, but for a four-year varsity star, it’s a process that has perfected his craft over the years. A craft that’s led him to his 100th career win.
Lucas Baker, first-year head wrestling coach, says that Aldrich’s 100-win milestone didn’t come as a surprise.
“The hard work and dedication to his craft, by coming to practice every day and staying late, made him a better wrestler,” Baker said.
Aldrich has been preparing for this moment since he first touched a mat 13 years ago. His dad, Brian Aldrich, and his coach remembered being stunned at his son’s first performance, seeing moves and holds that were beyond his training.
“I’m proud of Michael and all that he’s accomplished. He has worked hard for a long time to get to where his today,” Aldrich’s mother Nancy said. “By Michael starting wrestling at five-years-old helped him develop into a strong technical wrestler.”
To feed his interest, Aldrich’s parents enrolled him in club teams. As Aldrich grew up, these small tournaments turned into packed 90 wrestler competitions, where Aldrich competed against some of the best throughout his middle school area.
At the start of his freshman season in 2012, Aldrich was one of just two freshmen that made varsity. Once the first practice of his high school wrestling career was completed, he became overwhelmed immediately by the advanced pace of the practices. Aldrich felt intimidated by the 12 varsity upperclassmen wrestlers on the team.
“It definitely was a difficult adjustment [from middle school to high school] to make,” Aldrich said. “You’ll take your lumps as a freshman and sophomore because you’re practicing with the upperclassmen daily, you’ll get better that way.”
Aldrich struggled early on, earning his lowest win total for a season, winning 19 out of 30. Despite the turbulent start, Aldrich ended up placing third at regionals and went on to qualify for state.
In an attempt to improve on his past performances, Aldrich decided to attend off-season training in the summer, held in the morning at East.
“I thought it’d be a good move to make. It would help me get better,” Aldrich said.
The sessions that Aldrich attended improved his overall game, as he spent the time developing new moves, at times perfecting old ones.
The results were immediate for Aldrich, who doubled his win total as a sophomore from 19 to 38 as a junior. This accumulation of wins boosted Aldrich’s confidence, and last year he placed at state for the first time.
Currently, Aldrich, now a senior, is ranked fifth in all of 6A wrestling. Yet, after passing his 100 win milestone, Aldrich’s main goal is to place higher than 6th in state this March. Aldrich has four large-scale tournaments left on the schedule: district, league, regional and state. This means plenty of opportunities to bolster his career win total, which now stands at 102.