Six minutes on the mat: senior Josh McCallister looks towards state

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Laura McCallister

Wrestling at a meet in DeSoto junior year, McCallister grapples with his opponent. “[When I’m on the mat] I’ve got a game plan and I’m just ready to go. My head’s filled with what I’m going to do,” McCallister said.

At a West High wrestling camp between his eighth grade and freshman year, senior Josh McCallister laid the foundations for his passion. He picked up the skills quickly, and his confidence drove him to join the high school team. Eventually, he worked his way up to earning the team captain position in his senior season.

Practicing five days a week for two and a half hours per day, McCallister trains to build his endurance, strength and technique.

“We just drill day in and day out, we work our moves and we do the same moves every day. We add little ones here and there, but once you get to [be] a senior, you pretty much already know all the moves. It’s all about drilling them over and over again and practicing them perfectly, so that when you go out on the mat, you actually hit them perfectly,” McCallister said.

Wrestlers constantly work to improve their technique as well as their physical fitness, but mental toughness contributes to success as well. As captain, McCallister helps beginning wrestlers build the right mindset, as he struggled with that aspect of the sport earlier in his career.

After my qualifying match, I shook the dude’s hand, then I ran over, hugged my coach and picked him up—he’s not a light dude. I was just so over the moon.”

— Josh McCallister

“Freshman year I thought I was cool, because I was decent as a freshman, and then I didn’t go to state my freshman year. That wasn’t really humiliating, but it was something close. It made me realize that I need to work harder, so I’ve just been pushing myself to be the best I could be ever since,” McCallister said.

In order to improve, he has done club wrestling, which runs from the end of the school season in February until May. He also regularly works out on his own, and he closely monitors his diet—a change that ended up paying off.

“[My proudest moment was] getting to state my sophomore year,” McCallister said. “After my qualifying match, I shook the dude’s hand, then I ran over, hugged my coach and picked him up—he’s not a light dude. I was just so over the moon.”

McCallister was eliminated after three matches at state his sophomore year, but in his junior year he progressed to the blood round, a highly intense round that, if the wrestler wins, makes them a state medalist.

“I want all my hard work to be for something, I want to get the state medal, I want to get my name painted up on the wrestling wall and be the first medalist since before 2010. We used to have all of the state qualifiers and state medalists’ names listed on the wall, but it’s since gotten painted over. This year we’re getting it back, so I want to start that off with my name up there,” McCallister said.

Hoping to wrestle at either a DI or a DII college, with his dream schools being Southern Illinois University Edwardsville or Iowa State, McCallister credits wrestling for teaching him responsibility and helping him to set and achieve goals.

“Wrestling means everything to me,” McCallister said. “It lets me clear my head at the end of the day, it gives me something to look forward to to get through the day and it’s just all I look [forward to] through every school year.”