By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)
Majik Blanco-Nethery began wrestling as a sophomore at T.C. Williams, a relative latecomer to a sport where athletes often begin in sixth grade or earlier. But as the only Titan to compete in the Virginia High School League’s state championships last weekend, he has capped a strong high school career with a very impressive senior year.
Blanco-Nethery arrived at the state tournament, hosted by James Robinson High School in Fairfax, having won the Virginia 6A Patriot Conference individual title for the 113-pound weight class before finishing in third place at the 6A North regional tournament.
The 18-year-old attributes a great deal of his success to T.C.’s head wrestling coach Chris Marshall, who showed faith in the youngster and has been a positive influence both on and off the mat.
“[Marshall] has just been a very influential person in my life,” Blanco-Nethery said. “He’s really changed my life. He taught me the importance of dedication and hard work and how it really pays off.
“My sophomore year, he told me he was going to make me awesome, and it would pay off in the end. I didn’t really believe him at first, but now I believe him and it’s just been really great having him as a supporter and a guiding figure.”
T.C.’s only state representative was knocked out at the quarterfinal stage of the single-elimination tournament by Theo Thaxton of Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke. But Blanco-Nethery said the experience of competing at the state level with the backdrop of full bleachers and the support of Marshall and two of his teammates is a memory he will cherish.
“It was the first time I had competed on that big a level, but it was really fun,” he said. “There was a lot of people watching, and it was the first time I’ve actually been nervous this season to wrestle, because there were so many people there. There was a lot of pressure, but it was definitely fun to compete. It was intimidating.”
Part of being a high school wrestler is the need to control your weight in the days leading up to a match. Blanco-Nethery says he eats green beans every night to help keep his weight in check, and even with the Titans working out almost every day in the school gymnasium and at the Chinquapin Recreation Center, “making weight” can be a tough task.
“You basically have to plan every meal and you have to work out in order to eat, because you can’t be too overweight,” he said. “Say if you weigh-in on a Friday, we practice pretty much every day so towards the beginning of the week you’ve got to start watching what you eat. It’s just a lot of working out and not much water, maybe two bottles a day. My meals are really small.
“You don’t really have that much energy, but that’s why I wait to have a snack before practice so I’ll have enough energy to lose more weight. Once my body got used to it, towards the end of the season, it wasn’t too bad because my stomach was small and I was used to functioning on that amount of food.”
And after a season in which he triumphed at various levels and then represented his school on the state level, the ends have justified the means for the young wrestler.
“It’s really been awesome,” Blanco-Nethery said. “Training year-round, it really paid off and I’m just really happy I made it to states; that was my goal since sophomore year. I didn’t get pinned this year either, which was my other goal. It was a really fun experience being a senior; most of the team were seniors too and I’m really good friends with all of them, so it was a close team bond.”
Blanco-Nethery is now looking ahead to college, having already been accepted to Penn State but waiting on other decisions that are due at the end of March. He hopes to attend either Princeton or Stanford, and may well keep wrestling in some form.
“I’m trying to eat and grow, hopefully,” he said. “Even over the weekend, it’s only been three days or four days since I’ve wrestled, and I miss it so bad. Sunday I didn’t have practice and I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I’m definitely going to try and continue, either if it’s walking on or a club sport.
“I don’t know if I’d be able to compete on the varsity level, but I’d probably try as they don’t cut from teams; if you want to come out and wrestle you can wrestle. It would be a good experience.”