After suffering a terrible loss in the blood-round, a round where the winner goes to state and the loser’s season is over, at regionals his junior year, Loy Norrix senior Jalen Pace set a higher standard for himself this year. Pace started doing a lot of off-season wrestling with his coach, Marcileno Nunez. Even though Pace was busy playing varsity football, he still made time to get on the mats and improve his moves. Pace said his biggest goal was making it to the state competition.
The season didn’t start out as Pace thought it would, as he was required to wrestle heavyweight, which has 216 to a max weight of 285 pounds. Weighing in at 220 pounds, Pace was still forced to wrestle outside of his normal weight class, which was set at 190 to 215 pounds because of his alpha weigh-in.
An alpha weigh-in tells you your lowest weight to be healthy. He was not able to drop to a healthy 215 lbs until later in the season. Pace took a couple of upsetting losses at heavyweight in the beginning of the season, but that was when everything changed. Pace pushed himself more than he ever had.He dropped to the 215-pound weight class and started to wrestle to his full potential.
One of Pace’s best moments was at the Berrien Springs tournament. He pinned every competitor that stepped on the mat against him, which put him into the finals. Before Pace’s match, Loy Norrix was in second place. A win by Pace would secure first place for the team. If Pace could pin his opponent, Norrix would win its first ever tournament.
Pace was able to put the Berrien Springs 215-pounder to his back and pin him. This move locked in the win for Loy Norrix as the first team trophy in school history.
All of his matches and hard practices were getting Pace prepared for districts and reaching his ultimate goal, state. To become a state qualifier wrestlers need to place in the top four in their district. placing in the top four at districts, wrestlers then move on to regionals. At regionals, wrestlers again need to place in the top four to go to state. There are sixteen kids in each weight class per division and there are four divisions at state. At districts, Pace only lost once to Lukas Ready from Brighton, who now is a two time state champion.
Pace ended up wrestling for third and fourth place, against the fourth-ranked kid in the state, Robert McQueen from Howell. He finished the match beating McQueen 5-3 and started to get ready for regionals.
At regionals, Jalen found himself in a tough situation. If he won his next match he would go to state, if he lost his season and high school wrestling career would be over.
The match was against Portage Central’s Dominic Wilson. It was a very close match and went into overtime. Overtime is one minute and the first takedown wins it.
Pace took a shot and grabbed ahold of Wilson’s leg. He then tripped Wilson and took him down to the mat. The referee awarded him with the takedown and Pace became a state qualifier.
“[I felt] pure joy; it was something I always aimed for,” said Pace, after becoming a state qualifier.
The state tournament was held at The Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons. The Palace has a capacity of over 24 thousand.
“I was amazed on how big it was,” said Pace, as this was his first time at The Palace.
Even though he didn’t place at the state tournament, he still had a great experience and loved the entire trip.
“I feel it really prepared me to take wrestling to the next level,” said Pace.
Pace now plans on wrestling 197 lbs or heavyweight in college. He plans to attend Olivet College in the fall of 2016.