One of the most hardworking wrestlers in recent memory at Saint Ignatius High School will be competing at the highest level this weekend.
Anthony McLaughlin '15 will be wrestling at the 2019 NCAA Championships this weekend.
Following a great career at Saint Ignatius, McLaughlin matriculated to the Air Force Academy. Now in his fourth year with the Falcons, McLaughlin has reached the pinnacle of college wrestling, an incredible achievement.
Wrestling at 197 pounds, McLaughlin is set to wrestle later on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The tournament continues through Saturday in the Iron City.
McLaughlin stamped his ticket by capturing seventh at the Big 12 Championships as an unseeded grappler. The senior dropped his opening contest to the No. 2 seed, but rebounded with a showstopping TB-2 win over the No. 8 seed to advance to the second round of the consolations. McLaughlin then lost to the No. 4 seed, but defeated the No. 7 seed to fight his way to his first NCAA Tournament.
McLaughlin has overcome adversity this season, battling through injuries to a 13-7 record. McLaughlin will have more obstacles to overcome in Pittsburgh, as the Cleveland native enters as the No. 26 seed. McLaughlin will open against Jay Aiello of Virginia, the No. 7 seed with a 23-6 record on the season.
But McLaughlin is used to fighting his way through as an underdog. McLaughlin upset nationally ranked opponents at the Ironman Tournament during his time at Saint Ignatius, earning All-American status. Under head coach Mark Sullivan, McLaughlin twice clinched a berth to States, placing as a junior.
"Anthony was one of the hardest working guys in the room, by far. He was always a leader by example," said Sullivan. "He worked diligently in the classroom and on the mat. He always put in the extra work at practice. During matches, you knew what he was going to do because he practiced it 1,000 times, so you never had any surprises. He's one of those grinders who wore guys down by being in better condition and with his great technique. He was always in every match, even against the toughest guys."
From the start, the wrestling coaching staff knew McLaughlin was special.
"He was one of the quietest kids in the room, but easily the most respected kid in the room," Sullivan said. "I would compare him most recently to Patrick McGraw. Anthony always worked extremely hard and led by example."
You can bet your bottom dollar that Sullivan and the Mat Cats will be rooting for McLaughlin this weekend.
"We're extremely proud that he's gone to represent not only us, but more importantly our country in Air Force. Beyond wrestling and looking into the bigger picture, he's a young leader who helps keep up safe. We're extremely grateful and proud of the way he represents our country.
"I would tell Anthony to enjoy the moment. It's a rarity for a collegiate wrestler to make it to Nationals. Take that forward to help lead our country and keep us safe."
For more information, including how to watch, head to Air Force's athletics website for a full preview.
Good luck this weekend, Anthony!