It was a coincidence that The Colony senior Riley Courtney was introduced to martial arts.
His father, Matt, ran an Allstate insurance agency that was located just a few doors away from a Taekwondo studio. One day, Matt asked Riley if he wanted to try Taekwondo.
Of course, Riley was interested.
“I told him, ‘Yes, it sounds like fun,’” he said.
It was fun but Riley also took Taekwondo serious. It was a sport that he trained and competed in until he was 14 years old. Riley was promoted several times along the way, eventually earning a first-degree black belt. He also tried jiu-jitsu but he was more passionate about Taekwondo.
But when Riley entered high school, jiu-jitsu was a sport that wasn’t offered at The Colony. The closest thing that was offered is wrestling. He played for the Cougar baseball team but wrestling matched his athletic background more than baseball. Now, Riley is focused solely on wrestling.
Riley competed in a few junior varsity tournaments as a freshman but has been on the Cougars’ varsity team in each of the past three seasons. He won just two matches his sophomore season but was determined to get better. Riley saw drastic improvement his junior season, posting 28 victories. This season, he is 42-5 and is looking for his first appearance in the Class 5A state tournament.
The first step to earning a berth in the state tournament begins Feb. 2-3 with the District 8-5A Tournament, which will be held at Frisco Emerson. Riley didn’t advance out of last season’s district tournament, but he has a lot of momentum heading into this season’s event. He was recently crowned champion of the 165-pound weight division at the Cougar Classic.
In this week’s Star Local Media profile, Courtney chats about his drastic improvement, what he likes about wrestling and the competition that he will face in the upcoming district and regional tournaments.
SLM: Congrats on a great season. What has been the biggest reason behind your improvement?
RC: Just more consistency. That's been the main thing. Right now, I'm on a club team in addition to my high school wrestling team. Just anything extra that I can do is worth it. You don't feel it in that moment to make you better, but when the next match comes, you get a little bit better.
SLM: You won just two matches as a sophomore but increased that total to 28 as a junior. What can you attribute that improvement to?
RC: I just wanted to get better. I went to a few camps. I wrestled a lot of college kids that came home for the summer, a lot of alumni that were coming in. I was getting my butt kicked, but I was getting better. I didn't really know that I was getting that much better until my first match of my junior year. I threw a few a kids and had a good night. I kind of figured out everything better.
SLM: What did you think of wrestling when you first gave it a try?
RC: It was hard. It was not easy, but I really liked it because all you had to do to get a starting spot was to pin the starting dude and you get to start that week. I was playing baseball, but I just found it more cut and simple in wrestling.
SLM: Who were some people that have helped you to become better in wrestling?
RC: Coach (Chuck) Brown has helped a lot. He's in practice every day with us. He points to every single thing and tries to make you better. Also, I’ve had some past seniors help me, including Hudson Herring. They were tough wrestlers but they made me better.
SLM: You mentioned that your father allowed you to try Taekwondo. What did you think of Taekwondo when your first tried it?
RC: It was fun. You would go in and they would teach you how to fight, but you're not hurting anybody. It was about control. I just thought it was fun. My dad had an Allstate agency a few doors down from the Taekwondo place. He just found out about it and asked me if I wanted to go to it. I told him, 'Yes, it sounds like fun.'
SLM: The District 8-5A Tournament is coming up in less than two weeks. What are your thoughts about the competition that you’ll face?
RC: I had a pretty bad day at district last year. My motivation is quite a bit higher for this season. There are a few matches that I'm a little worried about. There is one in our district and a few in our region that will be hard matches, but I'm looking forward to it. It will be fun.