Motivation to excel on the wrestling mat was more than plentiful this season for Dripping Springs Tiger junior Chase Warden.
After falling a win short of a gold medal finish at the 2018 UIL state wrestling championships, Warden was determined to shake off that disappointment this season.
Through hard work and determination, Warden exorcised those demons last weekend when he secured in dominant fashion the gold in the 143-pound weight class at the UIL 5A state tournament. Warden, who capped off a perfect 34-0 season, accomplished the feat by pinning all four of his opponents at state in less than five minutes of mat time. He also joins the ranks of Luke Hodsden and Jonah Ribera as the only Dripping Springs wrestlers to win a state title.
By taking what he learned from 2018, Warden said the experience more than prepared him for this year.
“I was more motivated to win it (state). I didn’t want to take second again,” Warden said. “No one likes that. It drove me to work harder to win.”
Part of his success stemmed from a summer’s worth of time on the mat. Joe Kirksey, Dripping Springs High wrestling coach, said Warden picked up roughly 60 matches over the summer, including those with his club team which traveled in and out of state.
Kirksey said Warden was good enough to win the title in 2018 in the 138-pound weight class, but it “just didn’t work out” in the state final match. This season, Warden pinned 30 of his 34 total opponents and was in control of all his matches, Kirksey said.
That included defeating Dallas Highland Park’s Spencer Buchholz, whom he has wrestled several times prior to their match in the 2019 final.
“He knew this year there wasn’t anyone who was as good as him in that bracket,” Kirksey said.
Warden said he was nervous prior to the match against Buchholz, but reminded himself of the experience from last year.
“It felt good going in and wrestling just like I normally do,” Warden said.
Winning state adds to a list of accolades Warden has received since starting wrestling when he was six years old. Warden, whose older brother wrestled at Bowie High years ago, was introduced to the sport by his father, who takes him to practices and touranements.
Participating at the club level helps to improve his skills outside of practicing with his Dripping Springs teammates.
“It’s fun to do and I keep doing it, putting in the work to get better and now I’m here,” Warden said.
With one more year remaining, Warden hopes to return in 2020 to defend his title. This summer, Warden will take part in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling disciplines.
Helping the Tiger wrestling team, which finished 8th in the state in 2019, make a return trip to state in Cypress is also a goal for next season.
“I go out there and win, but I want to see my teammates win, too,” Warden said.