Kyle Thorpe hopes today is just the next step in what he hopes will be a three-week journey to Bakersfield for the CIF State Wrestling Meet.
The Atwater High senior has come ever so close to reaching what is the Mecca for high school wrestlers in California.
Thorpe finished one win shy of reaching state his sophomore season. The 160-pounder again felt the sting last year when an injured knee forced him to injury default and finish one victory away from qualifying for a trip to Bakersfield.
So you can understand why Thorpe is taking the next few weeks seriously.
"He knows the score," said Atwater coach Nelson Medeiros. "He knows it's his last chance. He has aspirations to wrestle at the next level and the only way for him to do that is to get there and do something when he's (at state). It's an internal motivation to get to the big dance."
Thorpe will join the rest of the Central California Conference wrestlers at Pitman High today and Saturday for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1A Tournament. The top eight wrestlers in each division will advance to next week's Masters Tournament at the Stockton Arena.
"There is a lot of pressure, but I feel ready for it," said Thorpe, who won his third straight CCC title last week and brings a record of 38-3 into today's action. "I know these next couple weeks are going to be tough. There is pressure from family, friends, people at school."
Thorpe said his own principal, Alan Peterson, jinxed him when he said Atwater had two state qualifiers at a recent staff meeting.
Thorpe and Jo Jo Ochoa will do everything they can to make that come true.
Thorpe worked hard in the offseason, attending a wrestling camp at Pacific University in Oregon during the summer. He also opted not to play football so he could focus on wrestling during the fall.
"He put all his eggs in one basket," Medeiros said. "We're trying to do everything we can to help him get where he wants to be."
Putting in hard work is nothing new for Thorpe. It's not often you'll catch him sitting on the couch playing video games.
"I play a little bit, but I'd rather be outdoors," Thorpe said. "Growing up in Oregon, there's nothing to do so I would go outside and shoot my bow or my little .410 shotgun."
Medeiros describes Thorpe as a hunter-gatherer type. Think more Wrangler jeans than skinny jeans.
When Thorpe isn't wrestling, he's spending his time training horses or hunting coyotes or deer.
"You can only train a horse three hours at a time," he said. "You've got to do something else when you're done."
Thorpe started training horses when he was 9 years old.
"During freestyle practice we'll play around and I'll bring my rope in and rope my teammates during practice," Thorpe said.
His outdoor mentality carries over to the mat.
Very few sports can be as mentally and physically grueling as wrestling.
"You've got to be tough to train horses, especially when they start bucking," Thorpe said. "You have to work hard to clean stalls, bale hay. You can't be weak."
Thorpe is ranked 24th in the state by California Wrestler and sixth in the section.
He has tournament wins at the Bear Creek Invitational, Modesto Junior College Invitational, Mid-Cals and Pitman's Rumble in the Jungle.
However, none of that matters now. All that matters is moving on to next week and ultimately that elusive trip to Bakersfield from March 1-2.
"I've been working on my shots," Thorpe said. "I want to open up more in the first round. I'm usually more of a defensive wrestler early in the match so I can get a feel for my opponent.
"I'm working hard. I want to be ready for everything."