Three seasons ago, Western Tech coach Juan Solera and sophomore Tejon Anthony joined a struggling wrestling program together full of optimism and hope to build a solid foundation.
Anthony, who wrestled junior league for the Woodlawn Wolfpack as a freshman, put the rest of the state on notice when he went 35-4 and won a Class 1A-2A state championship — the first in Western Tech school history.
Solera increased the team's numbers by encouraging football players and other athletic underclassmen to try out for the team.
The results took hold last season when seven Wolverines qualified for the Maryland state wrestling tournament — another first in school history.
Four of those wrestlers return this season, including Anthony, who was fifth in the state tournament last season after getting bounced to the consolation bracket in the second round.
His coach knows he will use that as motivation in his final season.
"That was actually the only tournament that he didn't get gold in last year," Solera said. "He's not really used to losing at all. He loves to win, so I know those two losses will definitely motivate him this year to get back to the top of the podium."
Anthony, a tri-captain with Austin Harrison and Necho Freeman, expressed those same sentiments when asked if he's motivated.
"More than ever," he said. "There is nothing like being at the top of the podium and that's why I'm trying to get back to it."
After winning an 11-3 decision in the 145-pound bout over New Town's Chaz Holbrook in the Wolverines' 43-18 triumph at New Town on Dec. 12, Anthony improved his career record to 74-10 at Western Tech.
His success has rubbed off on classmates Harrison and Freeman, who both won at New Town with second-period pins for the 2-0 Wolverines.
Harrison (171) went to states and won a match and that inspired him to become more dedicated to the sport.
"I got there and I was able to see that I could do this, and I won a match at states and it pushed me," Harrison said. "I wrestled all offseason. I had a tournament two or three weeks after states and I've just been wrestling ever since. I just have to keep working."
Solera likes what he sees from the wrestler who went 33-11 last season.
He (Austin) is legit," Solera said. "He's coming around. He's put in a lot of work in the offseason and he's dedicated to the sport."
Austin knows if he wants to go even further in the postseason he has to improve. "I definitely want to work better on bottom, get up faster and never stay on bottom," he said.
Freeman also qualified for the state meet last season when he finished 29-15.
The 220-pounder, who wrestled at heavyweight against New Town, also has lofty goals after an appearance in the state tournament and being around his state champion teammate.
"It opened up my eyes for my senior year and I want to go far," he said. "Like Tejon said, I want to be at the top."
Solera sees his desire every day on the mat. "Necho is another kid that just loves the sport and he dedicated himself to some serious work this year and he's getting the result he deserves," Solera said.