South Charlotte

Charlotte Latin wrestler is at it 'full-time, all the time'

Billy McClelland is a freshman, but he's not new to the Charlotte Latin wrestling program.

Far from it.

McClelland has been working with Charlotte Latin coaches since fourth grade, when his older brother, Peter, started wrestling at Latin.

He's been participating in tournaments throughout the Southeast with off-season coach and Charlotte Latin assistant coach David Paige.

"Only a small part of his wrestling career has been actually at Charlotte Latin," said head coach Richard Fletcher. "He's one of those kids that does it full-time, all the time."

McClelland's short high school wrestling career has been impressive. The 15-year-old capped his 29-5 season with a state championship in the 113-pound weight class and led Latin to its 15th N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association state title Feb. 18 at Charlotte Country Day School.

The freshman was the only Hawks wrestler to win his weight class in the state tournament.

The Hawks have had to rely on freshmen and sophomores all season, with just one senior, Luke Hedrick, on the team. Fletcher said he expected his young wrestlers to perform well in the state meet after going through a tough regular season that included Charlotte Catholic, Parkland and Piedmont.

"We're very young, and all the pieces fell in together in those two days" of the tournament, said Fletcher. "We peaked at the exact right time, the exact right moment to win the independent-school state title."

Latin edged SouthLake Christian in the championship by seven points. SouthLake had four individual state champions, but Latin won the team championship by placing six wrestlers - McClelland, Matt Borin (145), Hedrick (160), Zach Carter (195), Sam Wilson (220) and Toby Okwara (285) - in the championship finals and having two other wrestlers, Nick Boyd (152) and Alex Julian (170), place third or fourth.

"We knew with our seedings we could place six people in the finals, so that was going to score us a lot of points," said Fletcher. "The rest of it was just, you win tournaments in the consolation brackets."

McClelland said the team's young talent has improved over the season.

"Our young guys really grew up this year, myself included," he said. "We are a young team, but we don't act like it."

When he's not wrestling or working out during the season, McClelland watches videos of college wrestlers. Fletcher called McClelland a student of the game, saying he is "like an encyclopedia of technique."

"In order to know how good you can be, you have to watch the best," said McClelland, who likes to watch UNC Chapel Hill wrestling, where his brother is a student.

Coming into the state tournament, McClelland, who has a younger brother, Michael, on the seventh-grade wrestling team, was confident he could win. He had beaten Charlotte Christian's Charlie Rand, who was ranked No. 1 in his weight class by twice earlier in the year. When Rand was upset in the semifinals, McClelland had to face Providence Day's Tanner Love. McClelland won the match 6-1.

"It was something I was looking forward to since I was a little kid," he said. "It was my primary goal, and to achieve it was great."

McClelland, with teammate Zach Carter, competed the weekend of Feb. 25 at the National Prep Wrestling Championships at Lehigh University, where he hoped to place in the top eight to be named All-American.

Next week he'll join the baseball team as a second baseman. He's played baseball since he was 6 but considers wrestling his main sport.

With three years of high school left, McClelland has plenty of time to set new, and higher, goals for himself and his team.

"The future is what we make it," he said. "We can win state championships the next three years."