EAST BEND - Before every match, Forbush Middle School wrestler Isaac McMillan prays to his late coach and mentor Bobby Money to give him the strength and guidance needed to succeed on the mat.
Money’s inspiration has led the FMS eighth-grader to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
McMillan was chosen to represent North Carolina as a member of the N.C. Amateur Athletic Union National Wrestling Team next month after tryouts at Aycock Middle School in Greensboro on March 11.
As a sixth-grader on his Sertoma youth football team, McMillan’s coach Travis Baity encouraged him to go out for wrestling to help him become a better football player, little did he know that he kick-started something special.
McMillan tried out of the team and was named the 125-pound starter and a team captain.
After struggling to begin his wrestling career, the seventh-grader rebounded to finish his first season with a 5-5 record, with most of those wins coming against eighth-graders that beat him earlier in the year.
During the season, he met his inspiration Money, an AAU coach and former state wrestling champion at Starmount High School in 1995, who passed away earlier this year.
In his first AAU season, McMillan placed in the top three in each tournament he wrestled that season, including a first-place finish at Alleghany Middle School in his first event. He capped the year with a silver medal at the 2011 Powerade State Games at Forsyth County Day School.
This past season as an eighth-grader, McMillan was named as the captain for the second-straight season by coaches Russ Caudill and Jeff Farmer, and breezed through the first part of the year, racking up an undefeated mark at 135 pounds until an elbow injury abruptly halted his season short.
In an AAU tournament in Denver, N.C., in January, McMillan dislocated his left elbow in a match and was rushed into surgery at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center.
He then followed up at Wake Forest Baptist Health, finally being released on Wednesday, Feb. 22, in time for the Middle School Championships that Saturday. The rehabbed eighth-grader powered his way to a third-place finish.
Despite missing six events, McMillan earned the No. 1 seed at the North Carolina AAU State Championships on March 10. He finished with a six-place medal out of a 16-competitor pool.
McMillan will now turn his attention to the National Team that is led by East Wilkes Middle School Coach Tony Duncan and Alleghany Wrestling Club Head Coach Kevin Spurlin.
The National Team will begin competition in Indianola, Iowa April 13-15 at Simpson College.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.