By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Wrestling takes a lot of discipline, dedication and determination. There is the discipline of training and eating the right foods, the dedication of drilling day-after-day so moves become routine, and the determination to fight through pain and adversity to gain victory on the mat.
Brandon Eldridge displayed all those qualities and much more as he wrestled his way to the West Virginia Class AA-A championship in the 160 pound weight class, becoming the first state wrestling champion in the history of Bluefield High School.
Being in the state tournament was nothing new for Eldridge.
“It’s a cool experience. I had done it two years before, but this year I couldn’t really enjoy it as much because I had to focus on winning because it was my last chance to come in first,” Eldridge said. “If I lose then it’s basically over for me, so I didn’t have much time to enjoy it. I had to keep my mind on the task at hand.”
Eldridge, who came in third in the region, had his first match against Michael Parker, a regional runner-up from Fairmont Senior.
“On paper I should have lost, but I ended up major decisioning him 12-0.”
Next up for Eldridge was a quarterfinal match against Kane Roush of Wahama, the No. 1 wrestler in the state.
“It should have been the match that was in the finals, but unfortunately it wasn’t,” Eldridge commented. “I was kind of nervous. I could tell he was too, so I decided to play mind games with him, make myself look real confident so as to psych him out and it kind of worked. You could tell he was kind of nervous, then I just took advantage of it and beat him 7-2.”
The semifinals matched Eldridge against an opponent he had met earlier in the season, Alex Daniels of Independence.
“The first time we wrestled it was a close match, 3-2, so I figured it was going to be a pretty tough match,” Eldridge said. “I guess I prepared myself really, really well for it because it actually ended up being not too difficult of a match, 5-0. I shut him out. He didn’t even score on me.”
That win put Eldridge into the finals, but up popped a problem. An old injury reared its head but the senior wrestler was determined not to let it keep him down and win the state crown.
“Friday night I couldn’t even breathe, let alone walk,” Eldridge recalled. “Saturday I still could barely move. I was worried the entire day. I took a bunch of ibuprofen and iced it the entire time, praying that I could feel better and wrestle.”
Eldridge has previously injured the rib prior to regionals when an opponent had him in a hold and got twisted around. In the semifinal match the injury was re-aggravated.
“He had me locked up real tight and I tried turning. He had his arms locked around my ribs. As soon as it happened I felt it pull and I dropped straight to the mat and we had to go to injury time, which I didn’t want to do because I could tell he was tired and I didn’t want to give him a break,” Eldridge said. “So I got up and I just kept wrestling. After the match, after I sat down, my muscles tightened back up. I tried to get back up and I could barely even breathe. It hurt to walk.”
In the final match Eldridge squared off against another familiar foe, Marquise Frazier of Greenbrier West, who Eldridge pinned in 48 seconds earlier this year. But with his injury and the skill of Frazier, Eldridge knew this match would not be as simple as their first meeting of the season.
“I had to wrestle with my left arm because I couldn’t even raise my right arm because I couldn’t take the pain in my ribs and I didn’t want to take a chance of him squeezing me because I would have been done,” Eldridge remembered. “Most of the time I just waited for something to open up and I just took it. I knew if I went after it and he defended himself, then it would have hurt my ribs too bad.”
Eldridge won the match and made history as he became the first wrestling state champion in school history.
A wrestler since he moved to Bluefield from North Carolina in the 10th grade, Eldridge had and still has a love for MMA (mixed martial arts) which is how he got started on the mats. He has had enormous support for his endeavors on the mat from his family.
“My mom, my dad, stepmom, my whole family has been so supportive,” Eldridge said. “They’ve been to every match they could, always make sure I have all the wrestling shoes, or knee pads and all the stuff I want, any type of crazy-like health food I want. If it has to do with wrestling they are willing to commit to help me do it.”
Already committed to St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, N.C., as a wrestler, Eldridge said he plans to run track to stay in shape and he looks forward to continuing his education and wrestling career.
Agewise Eldridge is the third of six children. He has an older brother and sister and two younger brothers and a younger sister, and one sibling who is already following in his big brother’s footsteps.
“I get little Shawn on the mats, he’s 4 years old,” Eldridge said. “I always have him with me and he’s picking it up pretty well already.”
Eldridge is grateful for his coach, Ryan Rooney and what he has done to help develop him into a wrestler.
“I don’t know what he saw in me, but when I first moved here I wasn’t that great of a wrestler,” Eldridge commented. “But he took me, took all the extra time, worked with me on Sundays, we rolled the mats out, just us, and he showed me a little bit of technique. He’s been where I’ve been, so any questions I have to ask him, he knows exactly how to answer them.”
As for the future, Eldridge said, “I can’t wait to get to St. Andrews, live close to the beach, wrestling, college, all that.”