Isaiah McClure took winning the novice 100-pound division of the Washington State Folkstyle Championships on Feb. 19 at the Tacoma Dome in stride.
The 11-year-old grappler has far loftier goals in mind.
“My goal or vision is to go to the Olympics,” McClure said.
His state title, which came after a 6-0 win over Extreme Takedown’s Drake Thompson in the 100-pound finals match, was the third of his career. He also won folkstyle and Greco-Roman championships while wrestling at 75 pounds in 2015. McClure has been virtually untouchable this season in folkstyle and has compiled 49 wins to just one loss that came in the first tournament of the season against a seventh-grader. In nearly all his matches, he won by pin or a technical fall, which requires a deficit of at least 15 points.
McClure is set to compete in the USAW Folkstyle Nationals tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa on March 31-April 2 and then the 2017 Flo Reno Worlds Championships in Reno, Nev. on April 6-9. Competing on the national stage might intimidate the average grappler, but not McClure, says his father, Smokey.
“He doesn’t get excited, he doesn’t get freaked out,” Smokey McClure said.
Isaiah McClure competes for Chain Wrestling, a wrestling club started by his dad in Carnation where the family lived until this past fall. Smokey McClure has also started a similar youth wrestling club, Chain Wrestling West, that meets twice a week at South Whidbey High School.
“He loves wrestling, he just lives and breathes it,” Smokey McClure said. “He’s very comfortable at it and he makes it look very easy.”
In addition to competing in national and worldwide tournaments, Isaiah is gunning for an achievement closer to home: a triple crown, which can only be earned if an athlete wins a state title in all three forms of wrestling — folkstyle, freestyle Greco-Roman — all in the same season. The freestyle and Greco-Roman championships are from May 6-7 at the NW Sports Hub in Centralia.
“He’s got a really good chance at triple crowning,” said his mother, Leilani McClure. “We’re excited.”
Leilani McClure said Isaiah has come a long way from the boy who was once held back by his own fear. While his nerves are still present, he’s learned how to use it to his advantage and be more self-confident.
“He’s maturing,” Leilani said. “That fear motivates him.”
Smokey described Isaiah as being “strong” and a “short ox” who is usually a foot shorter than everybody he wrestles. While he has the power and ability to throw his opponents from the neutral position, Isaiah’s strength is his defense, which at times can be nearly impenetrable, Smokey McClure said.
“He’s not a stellar kid on his feet with all the takedowns, but no one ever takes him down,” Smokey McClure said. “He’s really good on top and is able to turn kids.”
His father also said Isaiah is beginning to enjoy being in the spotlight, but understands that he has to earn people’s admiration.
“I think he likes the attention,” Smokey McClure said. “He likes the fact that the more wins he has, the more people recognize that.”
“He hates losing. He understands how much I like wrestling and the effort my family puts into it. Losing isn’t an option. He doesn’t look at it as an option,” Smokey McClure added.
Isaiah said the most difficult part about his folkstyle championship was controlling his emotions. While he had little self-doubt, Isaiah still had to tell himself that he could win.
“When I won, I was really happy,” Isaiah McClure said.
While Isaiah ultimately wants to reach the Olympics, he is also set on becoming a four-time state champion for the Falcons and moving on from there to compete collegiately. The day before he won his folkstyle championship, Isaiah watched three of his friends win high school state championships at the Tacoma Dome as freshmen. He expects the same of himself when he eventually dons a Falcon singlet.
“He’s expecting himself to be a four-time state champion,” Smokey McClure said. “That’s probably pushed with my encouragement, but he’s definitely got his eyes set on not being just a high school competitor. He’s training to be a state champion as a freshman.”
Chain Wrestling West is looking for more South Whidbey wrestlers to compete in the freestyle and Greco-Roman season. The club is open to wrestlers who are intermediate and advanced.
Next fall, the club will compete in a folkstyle season and open up to wrestlers of all skill levels.