Wonders’ Clinding ready for return trip to state tourney
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Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014

Wonders’ Clinding ready for return trip to state tourney

Reaching the state championship wrestling tournament was so unexpected for Avery Clinding during his freshman year that he couldn’t wait to see the results the following season, when he was better prepared.

Unfortunately for Clinding, now a junior at A.L. Brown High, the opportunity to compete in another state tournament never came during his sophomore season. An injury slowed his momentum last season, and he failed to qualify.

Now that he’s been healthy for an entire season, the 120-pound Clinding is eyeing a return trip to the state finals. If he finishes in one of the top four spots at this weekend’s 4A West regional tournament in Cornelius, he will make his second state appearance in three years.

Coming out of the MECKA 8 4A conference tournament Feb. 1, Clinding was sporting a 41-8 record this season. He finished second to Robinson’s David Cline at the conference tourney.

Clinding is a team captain for the Wonders, who finished third in the regular-season standings and earned a berth in the 4A state dual team tournament. On Feb. 4, the Wonders lost a first-round match to Hough, 35-33.

Even though Clinding had an undefeated record and a conference championship as an eighth-grader four years ago, he admits the middle-school wrestling experience is nothing like how the sport is played on the high school level.

As a freshman, Clinding competed in the 106-pound weight class, wrestling against many other first-year opponents. Clinding held his own during the regular season, but he thought the year was complete after the conference tournament.

When he first heard coach Brian Ceresa talk to his wrestlers about preparing for the regional tournament, it was a foreign concept to Clinding. Still, the freshman won enough regional matches to qualify for the state tournament, another news flash to the unassuming Clinding.

At states, Clinding won one of his three matches and finished the year with a 46-8 record.

“It was unexpected,” Clinding said. “I didn’t really think I was going to make it that far. I was wrestling just because I like wrestling. I noticed where it got me. I was glad to get there. After that, it made me think about preparing myself for that time of wrestling season.”

Clinding was looking forward to his sophomore year, but he severely strained his back lifting weights in the preseason. Doctors did not clear him to compete until January 2013.

Clinding wrestled only 18 times that season, winning 12 of them. He lost two of his three matches at regionals, falling short of his quest to reach the state tournament again. But he didn’t pin his disappointing season on his injury.

“I blamed it on myself,” he said. “I didn’t wrestle to my full ability.”

Preparing for his junior campaign by competing in offseason tournaments in the spring and summer, Clinding believed he was mentally prepared to come back stronger.

With the help of workout partners and teammates Nick Sexton and Richard White, Clinding is now ranked eighth in the state in 4A on the retrorankings.com website.

Although he has suffered eight losses this season, Clinding has lost to just five wrestlers. He has two losses each to Robinson’s Cline, Sun Valley’s Thierry Washington and Morehead’s Jordan Jones, both by a single point.

Ceresa said Clinding’s most important contribution to the team this year has been his embracing a leadership role as captain. Clinding is not the cheerleader type, but he often addresses his teammates at practices to let them know what the day’s expectations are.

“He’s a fun kid to coach,” Ceresa said. “He’s a motivator on the team. He’s extremely laid back. When he goes to the mat, you kind of worry if he is ready to go. But when he gets out there, you can tell he’s ready to go.”

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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