After starting the season 29-1, Jay M. Robinson High School junior wrestler Kenan Robertson has the confidence and motivation to go the long haul.
"This year, I'm trying to do it big," he said. "I'm trying to win states."
The 152-pounder's lone loss of the year came earlier this month at the hands of the then-top-ranked Tennessee wrestler at that weight. He hopes that loss will help him refocus and become a better wrestler.
"At least the pressure (to go undefeated) is off me now," said Robertson. "But I definitely don't want to lose again.... I just love winning. I love that feeling."
The 16-year-old, who was 48-11 splitting time between the 145- and 152-pound weight classes last year, is an aggressive wrestler who's constantly looking to score points during his matches.
"I don't like to wait. I'm definitely not a defensive wrestler," said Robertson. "I like to go at (my opponents), hitting them on the head, taking shots, being the first one to shoot and get the first takedown."
First-year Robinson coach Jerome Davis said that hard-nosed approach to the sport is what has allowed Robertson to stand out.
"He grinds kids out and beats them up," said Davis. "There's nothing pretty about it. It's just real physical."
Davis added that Robertson also has the mental attitude needed to win in wrestling.
"He's got a little swagger to him," said Davis. "He's not cocky, but he definitely believes in his ability."
Robertson credited his improvement this season to weight training and conditioning in the offseason. He uses his strength to quickly get up on his opponents..
"Kenan is very dominant in the top position," said Davis. "He works a lot of tilts, gets a lot of turns, scores a lot of points."
Robertson, who wrestles year-round even while playing on the offensive line for the Bulldogs' football team in the fall, said he also put in hard work to improve his standing game and his shots. But for him, it all comes back to his physicality.
"You have to have strength," said Robertson, "or you're going to get overpowered."
Robertson was the No. 1-ranked 152-pounder in 3A for most of the season, according to retrorankings.com. His loss at the competitive Fandetti-Richardson Brawl in Tennessee dropped him to No. 2 in the state last week.
Although he's glad for the recognition, his focus is on getting some hardware come February.
"Rankings mean nothing to me," said Robertson.
He knows accomplishing his ultimate goal of claiming a state championship will not be easy.
"I have to fix my weak spots," said Robertson. "I have to get better on bottom."
Davis said it's hard for wrestlers to learn to master the technique necessary to get an escape or a reversal, especially when they're used to being the aggressor. But getting that down would make Robertson much harder to beat on the mat.
"That's what's going to win the tough matches," said Davis.
Robertson, who began wrestling nearly six years ago, hopes the experience of being a returning state qualifier will help him later this season.
"Last year, since it was my first time going, I was a little nervous," said Robertson. "That messed me up."
Robertson isn't the only Bulldog who should be making a trip to Greensboro for states later in the season.
Five other Robinson wrestlers are ranked in the top 10 in 3A in their respective weight classes, highlighted by two-time state champion Garrison White.
The 126-pound senior and his classmate Nathan Tesh, the No. 2-ranked 170-pounder in 3A, have the best chances of competing at states, said Davis.
He said sophomore Jonah Swinson (106 pounds) and seniors Jordan Taylor (195) and Hamilton Jones (132) could also make an impact.
As a team, Robinson has had a solid start, although there is still a lot of work to be done before they can be competitive in state dual tournament.
"The young kids have to step up and not give up pins," said Davis, "and we might pull something out."
Robertson has confidence that his team will.
"We definitely have some talent," he said. "But we just have to work harder."