By Anna Kayser
The wrestling room at McCutcheon High School has two mats, with practice squads split down the middle by weight. Two mats, working truly in tandem toward both common and individual goals, is the perfect metaphor for the first two returning state placewinners since 2006.
Aiden Dallinger and Cole Chicoine are seniors battling at opposite ends of the Maverick lineup – Dallinger at 120 points and Chicoine at 215. Last season, they became the first McCutcheon state placewinners since 2014 and the first to place earlier than their senior year since junior Travis Dale in 2006.
“Kids need to see an example, and when they see a kid from their school achieve at some of the highest levels, they start to think they can do it too,” McCutcheon head coach Adam Metzger said. “It’s been a huge launching point for our program, and we get to use them as examples in many ways.”
Having not one, but two seniors as focal points for the program has been huge not only in the development of younger wrestlers, but for Dallinger and Chicoine to work as a team in building each other up.
“I think just because we progressed at the same pace, we’re both reaping the same achievements at the same time,” Dallinger said. “I feel like it’s easier when we accomplish them, and it means more because we do it together.”
Both wrestlers have grown in parallel lines to each other since coming into the program as freshman. Young for their age with a lot of room for growth on the mat, they’ve taken each step together. Now, as they’re making their way through the postseason of their senior years, they’re able to cheer each other on.
Their gap in weight classes comes at an advantage. Although the benefits don’t come from on-the-mat head-to-head training, advice is constantly given and received in a way that makes each of them better. They’re able to take the time to be in each other’s corner without having to worry about their own imminent match.
“It definitely helps him keeping me accountable,” Chicoine said. “If I lose a match, I know he’s going to say something about it. If I do something sloppy, he’s going to say something about it… We push each other because we’re both pretty competitive. And since we’re both there, it’s not like one of us is going to fall off because we know the other one’s going to be on our backs about it.”
As sophomores, they each lost in their respective ticket rounds to narrowly miss state bids. Together, by holding each other accountable, they turned those losses into personal success and leadership opportunities.
“They’ve done all of the things we’ve asked them to do in the offseason, they bought into the program that we’re trying to sell them, and they’ve just continued to develop in the mat,” McCutcheon head coach Adam Metzger said. “They’ve [gone from] underdeveloped freshmen to vocal leaders who are just constantly trying to show our kids the path it takes to be successful and get to wrestle at the next level.”
With everything they’ve been able to do in tandem, working as a team to help each other achieve their goals, the effect on younger classes has been huge for the Mavericks.
In the McCutcheon wrestling room, each senior has the opportunity to lead one of the two mats and act as an extension of the coaching staff in building up the program. Their previous success is the perfect resumé for outreach and showing other wrestlers what a tangible path to reaching their goals looks like.
“When me and Aiden [placed at state], we showed that we put in the work and that our coaching staff knew what they were doing. It built confidence,” Chicoine said. “This year, it’s been a lot of teaching some of the younger guys that didn’t necessarily have a lot of success last year but trying to set them up for success not only this year but next year.”
Dallinger added, “To have a high-level on both mats, able to work around and build up our team on both spectrums, I feel like it’s a pretty big advantage.”
Success is contagious, and having seniors that are vocal, willing to teach and setting a good example not only on the mat but in the classroom – according to Metzger, Chicoine was Academic All-State and Dallinger’s SAT score was off the charts – has helped improve the Maverick wrestling program ten-fold.
“This is my fifth year at McCutcheon, and this is by far the biggest freshman class we’ve ever had,” Metzger said. “I think a lot of it has to do with [Aiden and Cole] – they go back to their old middle schools, they’ve worked with and talked to the kids. They do a great job of that outreach and just getting kids excited about our program.”