Every time Jake Eldridge advances to a higher level of wrestling, something disastrous occurs.
The good news is that the Jay M. Robinson junior may have run out of bad things to happen.
As a freshman, Eldridge reached the regional semifinals only to have an injury force him out.
During his sophomore year, Eldridge made it to the state tournament but an admitted overconfidence led to losses in his only two matches and elimination.
With a renewed approach toward his training and conditioning, Eldridge wants his Bulldogs tp go deep in this year's individual and dual-team state tournaments, respectively.
With an undefeated record through 16 matches, which includes his recent 100th career victory, he has a good start.
Coach Dave Parisi says that Eldridge did not come to Robinson with "a lot of natural ability" but that his work ethic, developed at Harris Road Middle School and with the Team Cabarrus wrestling program, earned him a starting position as a 135-pounder.
Eldridge says practicing with more talented wrestlers like juniors James White and Zac Simpson and fellow freshmen Patrick Oakley and Davante Andujar instilled in him a desire to improve. He surprised himself by winning the first of two ME-CA 7 4A Conference titles and finishing with a 38-17 record.
The 2007-08 season closed in disappointment. Eldridge won two matches at regionals but in the semifinals against the eventual champion, he landed on his shoulder, breaking it.
After he recuperated from his injury, Eldridge worked out at Charlotte's Arrichion wrestling facility and began lifting weights with his basketball-playing brother, Caleb, a 2008 Robinson graduate.
A highlight of his regular season was winning the prestigious Sarah Wilkes Tournament at Eden Morehead High, but Eldridge was more focused on changing the direction of his post-season.
Now at the 145-pound weight class, he entered the regionals seeded fifth and came back from a semifinal round loss to capture third place in the double-elimination tournament. Eldridge was ready to make a mark at the states.
Later admitting that he approached the state tournament with arrogance, Eldridge lost his first match by a point and his second match by three points. He finished the season at 47-13 but helped Robinson to a third place finish in the team standings and a final four finish in the state dual team tournament.
Eldridge got stronger during the off-season. Able to bench press 170 pounds as a 145-pound sophomore, he now presses 245 pounds competing in the 152-pound class.
Being elected team captain, Eldridge became even more motivated to work harder and set an example. Parisi and assistant coach Rick Hedden noticed a big change too - that Eldridge was finishing moves.
"Last year I would get a lot of near falls," Eldridge said. "Now that I'm stronger, it's definitely easier to finish moves and pins."
This year Eldridge has won his first 16 matches, reaching 100 victories for his career. The milestone came during the championship match of the East Mecklenburg Jim Hayes Tournament on Dec. 5.
Eldridge's goals for this season: avoid disasters and capture state titles for himself and his team.