The biggest message that Little Elm head wrestling coach Mike McBride had for his Lobos this year was to not worry about what you can’t control.
Little Elm couldn’t control the fact that it was a first-year program. The Lobos couldn’t control that they were placed in one of the toughest districts in the state, which includes an Allen team that is not far removed from winning its 12th straight team state championship.
Lastly, Little Elm couldn’t control where it practiced.
With nowhere at Little Elm High School to practice, the Lobos had to drive four miles away to Lakeside Middle School. The middle school will also serve as the site for a wrestling camp this upcoming week. But after that, McBride said that his Lobos will likely have to find somewhere else to hold practice.
All of the lockers in the boys locker room were removed and one mat was placed in the center of the room. Twenty-five wrestlers shared that one mat.
With space being very limited, McBride had to get creative. There were times when the male wrestlers did jump-roping exercises near the wall while all of the female wrestlers performed wrestling-specific drills on the mat, and vice versa.
“It was pretty confined in there,” he said. “We were definitely not Ivan Drago. We were Rocky.”
McBride said that he is in the process of buying new clothing for his team, but he added that he is also in talks with someone to start a booster club with the goal to start raising money to build a new practice room and to purchase other wrestling gear.
Despite practicing in a small room, McBride didn’t want that to be an excuse for his team. After all, it was a program that had to build from the ground up. Only two or three out of the 25 people on the roster had any previous wrestling experience.
“Those guys with experience knew what a normal workout was,” he said. “The rest of them didn't have any kind of idea. They didn't know where or how to stand. We had a lot of different people working in different ways.”
That wasn’t the only obstacle that Little Elm had to overcome.
Joe Marino, who was hired to be the first head coach in team history, resigned during the Christmas break, citing health reasons. McBride, who was already with the program in a coaching capacity, took over the reins. He said that he doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.
"I love Little Elm,” said McBride, who also serves as an assistant coach with the Lobos’ football team. “I love the school. I love the community.”
This is the first job as a head wrestling coach at any level for McBride.
Prior to accepting a position with Little Elm, he was at Hebron from 1999-2012 then spent the next three years at Coppell, two more at Marcus and then three more at Lewisville – all as either an assistant coach or a volunteer.
McBride’s son, Seth, wrestled for the Hawks from 2008-12. It was while Seth was in high school that Mike became passionate about wrestling.
“I was always a team-sport guy, but there was something about wrestling whenever you got your hand raised,” Mike said. “Just being on the mat, you can't hide.”
Mike was an offensive guard for Texas Tech’s football team in the mid-1980s. But around that same time, he was already familiar with contact sports, including in a one-on-one environment. His father, Fred McBride, was a 10th-degree black belt in full-contact karate and in at least one year won a state championship in the heavyweight division. In addition to competing in karate, he owned several karate studies in Lewisville and also was a fight promoter for a mixed-martial arts association.
Mike eventually took mixed martial arts and used it to get into better physical shape.
Getting into better shape was something that he had to do. An athlete for most of his life, Mike’s health took a turn for the worse in 2018. There was at least one time that he woke up and had to go to the hospital for treatment. He said that he felt weak and his body would start to shut down. Doctors diagnosed Mike with hemochromatosis, a disease that causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat.
Mike had to get a liver transplant, and there was a while when he thought that he would also have to receive a thyroid transplant. At the time, he was told, that unless something changes, that he had four or five months to live.
In Mike’s case, he said that it came as the result of not eating a proper diet.
“You hear these things about not taking your life for granted, and there is a whole lot of truth behind it,” he said. “I was really unhealthy at the time. I should have known a lot better.”
Less than three years later, Mike was on the mat leading a practice for Little Elm’s wrestling team.
The start of the wrestling season was delayed for three months due to the ongoing pandemic. On March 2, Little Elm traveled to Coppell to compete in its first-ever meet. The Lobos wrestled the host Cowboys as well as Irving High. Little Elm defeated Irving with the Lobo boys losing just one match in that dual, giving Little Elm its first dual win in program history.
It was just the start of even better things to come for Little Elm.
At the District 6-6A tournament, the Lobos qualified six wrestlers for the Region I-6A tournament. Kayce Bolle (165) and Andrea Hernandez-Robledo (185) earned first place, while Emily Pedro (138), Brettney Pedro (148), Jax Brown (boys heavyweight) and Brandon Kirk (126) placed in the top three of their respective weight divisions.
Bolle and Brown qualified for the Class 6A state tournament at the Berry Center in Cypress. At the state tournament, Brown finished in fifth place to become the first state placer in Little Elm’s abbreviated history.
“They're both great kids and they both worked really hard,” McBride said. “They represented everyone from Little Elm at the state tournament and everyone from Little Elm was rooting for them."
McBride said that he has received emails from several parents who have inquired about getting their kids involved in wrestling.
Within the next couple of years, McBride hopes to get a youth league started as well as wrestling programs at each of the two middle schools in Little Elm.
“The key for me is getting them involved whenever they are young,” he said. “What our high school did last year was kind of unheard of. All of those people that we went against were big-time wrestlers. They have been wrestling for a long time, and that's where we want to get to. Whenever we get there, we'll be really good.”