Practice, Win, Repeat

Sophomore Max Brandt’s Wrestling Journey


Ready to pounce at his opponent, sophomore Max Brandt considers each way he could pin his opponent. During his regular season, he went 24-3. “Wrestling is my whole life,” Brandt said. “I’ve done it since I’ve walked. It teaches you a lot of good stuff on how to be a better human, and you can definitely learn a lot rather than just how to pin someone. You can learn how to defend yourself – it just makes you a better person, I think.” (Photo Courtesy of Max Brandt)

Heidi Williams, Reporter

After drinking his Liquid I.V. and finishing his sandwich, sophomore Max Brandt is ready to prepare for his upcoming wrestling match. He completes his routine – adjusting his headphones to start warming up with a friend – and gets his body ready for the work it’s about to endure.

Entering the world of wrestling when he was just 4 years old, Brandt began his wrestling career following in his father’s footsteps. Brandt recently competed in the 2022 UIL Wrestling State Championships, but this isn’t his only big tournament. In October, he and his family drove to Des Moines, Iowa, for an invitational tournament where he wrestled athletes from all across the nation at the Brian Keck Memorial Preseason Nationals.

“The people who are there are meant to be there, so they’re all going to be good,” Brandt said. “They all worked to get there. It was – like, people from all over the nation came, and that was pretty hard.”

In wrestling, only 16 people per weight class, of which there are 14, are allowed to go to UIL State. This year, Brandt wrestled in the weight class of 113 pounds and had a win-loss record of 24-3, which was good enough to advance.

“It was pretty cool because, like, you get in the big arena and you walk on the floor and you see all the people there and it’s pretty big, it’s scary, it’s intimidating,” Brandt said. “They line you up in lines by weight whenever you go weigh in and you’re looking at everyone and you’re like ‘Dang, everyone is like supposed to be there, like, those are the top 16 best people in the state.’”

In 2022, the UIL Wrestling State Championships were held in the Berry Center in Cypress, Texas, which holds 11,000 people. Most of the seats were completely filled with either parents, siblings and coaches or other wrestlers. The centers of attention were the 16 wrestlers on the mat. 

“Everybody is watching you, there are colleges there that are scouting – it’s not nerve racking, but there’s a lot on the line,” Brandt said. “You kind of tune out [the others around you] ‘cause once you check in and put the anklet on it’s like, ‘Okay, it’s just you and the other guy wrestling and that’s it.’”

Over the summer, Brandt didn’t miss one practice session. He had two practices a day: he would wake up, go on a run and then head to the first practice of the day. He either would wrestle with the school or his club team, 512 Outlaw Wrestling, who he has been with since last year but has known the coach since he was 4 years old.

“I worked really hard for [State,]” Brandt said. “I was like, ‘I’m gonna do it,’ but I expected it. Even at State, I fell short of my goals. I wanted to place at State this year, which I was good enough to do, but it just didn’t happen. It’s just more motivation for next year. Next year, I want to win.”

Even though Brandt said he didn’t do as well as he had hoped, his attitude and mentality never weakened, instead getting stronger. 

“I want to win State, and I’m going to win,” Brandt said. “I’m going to put in even more work. I’m going to go to a lot of camps, probably, and do as much as I can, go to as many tournaments as I can – just maximum effort.”

Even competing with a hurt shoulder, he decided to power through and finish this year’s wrestling season. Brandt said he may have hurt it over the summer, but didn’t find out until February. To play with his torn labrum, a piece of cartilage in the shoulder, he has to wear a shoulder brace and tape it to prevent it from coming out of its socket.

“I didn’t figure out I hurt it until February, so I just decided to finish the season and wrestle through it,” Brandt said. “It was scary sometimes, because if it gets extended, my arms straighten out [and] my shoulder will come out so I have to wrestle differently. It’s cool because it gave me a new way to look at [wrestling], but besides that, it wasn’t that bad. There’s always been other injuries, like my knee always hurts, but that’s about it. There is surgery you have to get for the shoulder, and I don’t think I’m getting it this year, which means I have to wrestle next year with my shoulder like this, which is going to suck.”

Wrestling takes up plenty of time, Brandt said. According to Brandt, his mom complains about how he is never home, but the sophomore is hoping she’ll understand why he works so hard next year. 

“For wrestling season, for me, I got to cut weight, and to cut weight, I’m not eating all day,” Brandt said.  “I might eat like a bar or something and then I have like a cup of water. I don’t drink that much water, you [then] feel dehydrated, you feel like crap and then you have to go to practice and it just sucks.”

According to Team USA, the National Olympic Committee of the U.S., wrestling builds character and teaches kids how to overcome obstacles, handle their emotions, respect authority and realize the importance of being a good teammate. In addition to this, Brandt said he learned that success has to be earned through hard work and determination. 

“The mental aspect [of wrestling], it just makes you mentally stronger,” Brandt said. “The last thing I wanna do is go to a wrestling practice because they suck. Mentally, you just have to be like a robot. You got to just do it,[and] it’ll eventually pay off and you go to State, it’ll pay off. You kind of just have to not complain. Put your head down and do it, and it’ll pay off eventually. That transfers out to stuff in school and work. You might not like it, but the more you do it, something good will come from it.”

The coaches provide morning practices before school, though only Brandt and a few others attend the extra opportunity. 

“We’re the ones who want to win State and want to achieve our goals,” Brandt said. “I feel like it’s the mentality of it. If you wanna be as good as the people who wrestle D1 in college, you can obviously put in a lot of effort, but you have to be obsessed with [wrestling]. I see people that goof around at practice and I’m like ‘They’re here to have fun,’ but someone like me who wants to achieve my goals, I want to be a State Champion – you [have] to flip a switch. There are times that you can mess around, and then there are times where you have to be serious. Mess around outside the wrestling room, you got to be serious inside.”

The wrestling team spends countless days and hours together, whether it is at each other’s houses or at wrestling tournaments. The wrestlers see each other during fourth and eighth period for their class, sometimes extending to afterschool. After their period, they could be at different high schools wrestling or be hanging out in the pool.

“We have group hangouts,” Brandt said. “We hang out a lot, sleep over at each other’s houses and have fun. We are like brothers. The wrestling team is a whole big family. We suffer with each other when we got to cut weight and do sprints, but after that we get to go to McDonalds and eat with each other and get to have fun, it’s worth it.”