This time last year, Rashon Gholson was honing his wrestling skills on the Military Magnet cafeteria floor.
The wrestling team would roll mats out for practice and clean the floors themselves after they were done for the day.
Now, when it’s time for practice, Gholson heads to Room 157 – also known as the wrestling room. Complete with mats, equipment and familiarity, the room has boosted the morale of the team.
“It’s like another home,” the senior said. “I go, get a hard workout, hang out with friends, and talk about our goals.”
The wrestling room is where Gholson and Antwuan Gantt, a junior, have pushed each other to be their best. And it’s one of the reasons why both are headed to Virginia Beach later this month for the High School Nationals.
From March 29-31, hundreds of competitors from around the country will compete at the event, sanctioned by the National High School Coaches Association. This is the first time the North Charleston school has ever sent a wrestler to Nationals.
“It’s hard to get invited and you really have to be a standout,” said Brendan McCann, the head wrestling coach at Military Magnet. “It’s a big honor to go and I think it’s a great precursor of what’s to come for the program.”
But the present is also looking bright for the Eagles. Gholson is the leader of the team and wears that title with honor. The heavyweight wrestler is vocal with his teammates in practice and at matches.
And on the mat, Gholson has a knack for sizing up the competition and bringing quickness to a division known for strength and power.
It’s why he finished third overall in Lower State and fifth at the S.C. High School League state championships this season.
“I wanted to be the best wrestler and role model for everyone on this team,” Gholson said. “I can’t get on somebody about working hard if I’m not doing it, so I knew I had to set the example.”
Gholson plans to take his craft to the next level and is eyeing Greensboro College in North Carolina, among other schools.
He’ll leave some big shoes to fill, but he’s prepared Gantt for that leadership role. This year, Gantt became the second wrestler in school history to win a state title, and was one of seven Eagles to qualify for state, the most in school history.
Competing in the Nationals will be exciting, he said. But he’s far from nervous. For him, it’s a chance to showcase his skills as a junior with another year left to draw attention from colleges.
Plus, he has Gholson on his side.
“That’s big brother,” Gantt said with a smile. “He’s that guy who lets you know that you have one shot at this. So you have to get it done.”
McCann says the team's success is the product of hard work and dedication by the athletes and his assistant coaches — McKenna Palacious, Corey Seasock, Garrison Pollock and Terrence Hilliard.
Together, the staff has created a winning culture at Military Magnet. For McCann, it’s just the beginning.
“When I got here, they didn’t have uniforms. And as a team, I saw a lot of untapped potential,” he said. “So we’re really still developing and I think we’re moving in a great direction.”
Wrestlers from other Charleston-area schools expected to compete in the Nationals are North Charleston High School's Parker Graham, Joseph Lawson, William Bogstad and Camron Hawkins; Fort Dorchester's Matteo Vargo; Joshua Maningding from Stratford and Spencer Wall from Cane Bay.