The first thing Kollin Wade did last year after winning the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A wrestling championship was hug his coach and his best friend who helped him get there, teammate Will Clark.
Clark, one match earlier, had won his second straight title. This weekend, Wade will try to get his second straight.
If successful, Wade will thank Clark, now wrestling at N.C. State, for being his sparring partner and a lot more over the past three seasons.
But when Wade first moved from Conway, S.C. to Cary as a sophomore, he and Clark couldn’t stand each other.
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“Before we met each other we had already kind of decided we hated each other and didn’t want anything to do with each other,” Clark said. “When we first heard about each other, everyone was like ‘Oh, Will is going to take Kollin’s spot’ or ‘Kollin is going to take Will’s spot’ and that type of thing.”
But being so close in skill and weight class – Clark wrestled at 138 while Wade is 145 – the two had to spend time together on the mat.
“We were forced to be together because we were the two best kids,” Clark said. “Constantly, coaches would make us be together even if we would choose other partners.”
The wall wedged between the two began to fall.
After some time training at the Arrichion wrestling club together, Clark realized he and Wade had a lot more in common than they thought. Both of them had transferred to Cary ensuing their freshman years of high school and didn’t know a lot of people at first.
“Will was cool (at Arrichion), and we started to get along after that,” Wade said. “It felt like we didn’t get along at first because one wanted to be better than the other person.”
As time went on, iron sharpened iron as they battled each other in practice. It ended in a dream scenario when the two exited the 2014-15 season as state champs.
“The amount of growth I’ve had since moving to Cary by having (Clark) as my drill partner has been excellent,” Wade said. “He tells me he knows how good I could be and he tries to push me to that level everyday. He’s always been in my corner, helping me out with wrestling and everything else.”
Cary coach Taylor Cummings says he’s not only witnessed Clark’s uncanny skills on the mats transfer onto Kollin, but also some of his attributes as a teammate.
“He learned a lot of technique from Will. Things that worked well for Will, finishes, wrestling in all positions I think certainly rubbed off on Kollin,” Cummings said. “Kollin also doesn’t take anyone for granted and Will never did either.”
Clark was there for Wade when Wade’s brother moved from Cary to Charlotte. Clark offered up his home to help Wade avoid going to a third high school in as many years. Wade lives with another friend now.
When Clark was troubled by his injury-filled senior year, Wade was there for him.
And Clark was there for Wade before last Saturday’s 4A Mideast regionals, coming back to Cary High to warm up with Wade before competition.
If Wade can repeat this Saturday, he won’t have far to go to thank Clark again. The Wolfpack wrestler will be in the stands.
“The sport really changed how we saw each other,” Wade said. “We went from being rivals to being friends.”