GROVE - Grove's wrestling team is sending four athletes to the State Tournament in Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday, February 28-29. Here are profiles on those four wrestlers.

Jaydale Whitlock

Jaydale Whitlock is wrestling at 120 lbs and will be making his third appearance at the state tournament. As a freshman he qualified for state and placed fourth. As a sophomore he placed second. He’s now a junior and making his third trip in a row to state and trying to win it all. He has goals.

Whitlock has been wrestling since he was 4 years old. He comes from a family of wrestlers. His father Aaron Whitlock was a State Champion wrestler from Miami, and his brother Dalton was an outstanding wrestler for Grove and Miami. He says he started wrestling because of his father, who introduced him to the sport and coached him throughout his youth and junior high wrestling career.

Whitlock says he grew to love wrestling because he loves the competition. He loves the battles during the matches and coming out on top in the end. He’s a true competitor.

Whitlock works all year on his wrestling. There are not many times during the off-season that he is not training, weightlifting, or on a mat somewhere. That hard work is evident, and his career success is the proof.

Whitlock wants to win two state titles in high school, and then move on to college wrestling and become a national champion there. He is already receiving interest from several colleges for his wrestling.

Whitlock's record this year is 29-3, with 14 falls. He also placed in every tournament Grove participated in this year. His tournament finishes are:

1st Bristow Tournament

1st Wagoner Tournament

5th Cushing Tournament

1st Skiatook Tournament

1st Will Rogers Conference

2nd 4A East Regional.

Gage Gates

Gages Gates is wrestling at 145 lbs and is going back to state for the second time, after qualifying as a sophomore last year and just missing out on a placing. He should have gone as a freshman, if it were not for a questionable referee call. He was definitely good enough to qualify that year and would have.

Gates started wrestling in Blackwell, Oklahoma. He was coached initially by his father Brad Gates, who also wrestled for Blackwell, where he was a two time state qualifier and a state runner up.

The Gates family moved to Grove when Gates was in the second grade. He then started wrestling for the Grove Takedown Club. While wrestling there he placed at OKWA and the USJOC Tournaments. Those are great accomplishments in themselves. Gates' younger brother Ezra also wrestles for Grove on the junior high team.

Gates says his goal in wrestling is to become a state champion in high school and then to continue wrestling in college.

During the off-season Gates works on weightlifting and freestyle to prepare for the wrestling season. He says during the season he gives his all during his matches because he never wants to let his parents down. He only wants to make them proud.

Gates' record this year is 28-8, with 19 fall and he placed in every tournament this year also. His tournament finishes are:

2nd Bristow Tournament

2nd Wagoner Tournament

4th Cushing Tournament

2nd Skiatook Tournament

1st Will Rogers Conference

2nd 4A East Regionals

Wesley Downing

Wesley Downing is wrestling at 152 lbs and is a junior making his first appearance at the state tournament. Downing can, at any time, beat anyone in the state. He has proven it time and time again by taking down #1 seeds when he was not supposed to. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in heart, desire, and the ability to fight.

Downing initially started wrestling in first and second grade, before moving away. He returned to Grove and started wrestling again in 7th grade. He had success in junior high at the Will Rogers Junior High Conference Tournament where he placed 2nd in 8th grade and 1st in 9th grade.

Downing says he loves wrestling because of the hard work it takes to compete and the intensity and the fight needed to win.

In his first year qualifying for state, Downing says he’d like to place. At this time he’s unsure whether he’ll continue wrestling after high school, but he promises to give it his all while he’s still competing. Grove fans have no doubt Downing will always be battling out there. His matches are always exciting.

Downing's record this year is 25-9, with 15 falls. His tournament finishes this year are:

3rd Bristow Tournament

2nd Wagoner Tournament

3rd Will Rogers Conference

2nd 4A East Regionals

Brendan Hernandez

Brendan Hernandez is wrestling this season at 160 lbs and is now a two time state qualifier. He did not wrestle at high school regionals his freshman year, but did place 4th at OKWA and in the top 16 of 65 at Junior High Allstate at his weight. That was the toughest tournament he ever wrestled in. He qualified for state as a sophomore, but injuries his junior year cost him a chance to go back to state the next year. Now, as a senior, he can end his wrestling career the way he wants, at the state tournament.

Hernandez started wrestling when he was 10 years old. He got into wrestling because of his older brother Skyler Hernandez, who started the family in wrestling. Skyler and Brendan both qualified for state together in Brendan’s sophomore year, Skyler’s senior year. Brendan was happy he could share that accomplishment with his brother. They have always supported each other and still do. The youngest Hernandez brother, Daylen, has also followed them into wrestling. Daylen wrestled this year at Grove for the junior high team.

When Hernandez first started wrestling as a youth, he had a tougher time finding success than his brother Skyler, who won tournaments immediately. Hernandez never quit trying to get better. As he gained more experience and training, the wins started to come more frequently, until he was winning tournaments himself. He hasn’t looked back since, and other than his injury plagued junior year, he has continued to improve every year.

Hernandez loves wrestling and has always worked hard trying to improve. He strives to have success in the post season. He worked hard in the offseason with his cardio, weightlifting, offseason wrestling tournaments, and wrestling camps. He always wanted to be prepared for the wrestling season.

What Hernandez loves the most about wrestling are the times he’s able beat a wrestler he isn’t supposed to beat. He’s accomplished that feat numerous times in his career. How you ask? Because of his ability to fight through adversity. He never quits. He is always fighting to improve, to win.

The toughest thing Hernandez has had to overcome in wrestling were the injuries that kept him off the mat his junior year. He promised himself then that he would do everything he could to get back out there for his senior year, to compete. He’s done that.

Hernandez plans on going to college after high school and then pursuing a career in law enforcement. The end of his wrestling career will be this year at the state tournament. By qualifying for state in his senior year, he has given himself a chance to continue wrestling for one more week. That’s what he wanted to do.

Hernandez's record this year is 29-7 with 26 falls. He was a pinning machine this year and lead the team in that category. He is now in the top 5 all time at Grove for falls in a season. Essentially, if Hernandez had a win this year, it was by pin. His tournament finishes this year are:

1st Bristow Tournament

3rd Wagoner Tournament

3rd Skiatook Tournament

3rd Will Rogers Conference

2nd 4A East Regionals