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Keeping an eye on the prize: Mitchell’s Max hones in on winning state title in final season

Last February at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls, Mitchell High School's Carter Max was watching intently as his twin brother, Carson, wrestled his way to a state championship.

Mitchell senior Carter Max escapes a hold from Wagner's KJ St. Pierre during the 220-pound finals of the Jerry Opbroek Invitational on Saturday at Mitchell High School. (Nick Sabato / Republic)
Mitchell senior Carter Max escapes a hold from Wagner's KJ St. Pierre during the 220-pound finals of the Jerry Opbroek Invitational on Saturday at Mitchell High School. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

Last February at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls, Mitchell High School's Carter Max was watching intently as his twin brother, Carson, wrestled his way to a state championship.

Max was thrilled for his brother. There was no jealousy, but he knew he wanted to experience what it was like to be atop the podium as well. He lost both of his matches at the state tournament and has been salivating at the opportunity to return this year.

For most of the season, he has looked the part.

This is Max's final prep campaign and it has been the best of his career, having gone 20-2 thus far and earning the No. 2 ranking at 220 pounds by Dakota Grappler, setting up a chance to join his brother at the pinnacle as a high school wrestler.

"There have been a lot of nights where I just stayed up and thought about it," Max said. "The season I had last year was very disappointing at the end and I didn't come home with that trophy at the end. (Carson and I) kind of talked about it leading up to this year and what I need to do."

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Max won a career-best 26 matches last season and he is on pace to surpass that this year, all while in unfamiliar territory. All but three of his varsity matches dating back to eighth grade have come at 182 pounds, but this season, he has wrestled exclusively at 220.

Wrestling at a lower weight, Max traditionally weighed around 188 pounds, but this season he has not had to slim down and now wrestles at 210. That experience wrestling at a lighter weight has helped him adapt, and he believes, gain an advantage on heavier wrestlers.

"At 182, the guys are a little smaller and move around a little better," Max said. "At 220, the bigger they are, there's a lot more pushing and shoving. Part of my success this year has been not wrestling a normal 220 style-actually moving my feet, taking shots and being different than the rest of the class in the state."

Mitchell head coach Travis Carpenter also believes wrestling in a bigger weight class has attributed to Max's success this season, but for a different reason. Rather than focusing on making his target weight, Max can worry solely about wrestling.

"Cutting weight takes a little bit away from your mental edge," Carpenter said. "He gets to eat, he gets to work and he gets to do a lot of things that he wants to do and he's not focused on something other than wrestling."

Ironically, the top-six state finishers at 220 pounds were seniors last year, with seventh-place finisher Gus Miller of Brookings being the top returnee, creating an opening for Max to make a run.

With this being his final chance to attain his goal of winning a state championship, Max is aware that the clock is ticking and that has added another layer to his improvement this winter, particularly considering he has lost all four of his matches in two career appearances at the state meet.

"He believes that he has one last chance," Carpenter said. "Any senior has one last to chance to go out and make their mark. He's one of those kids that wants to go out on his own terms."

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Max has geared his entire senior season toward having his hand raised at the end of the state championship match on Feb. 23 in Rapid City.

"I would say the goal is to at least place at state, but that's not a goal," Max said. "I want to win the whole thing."

Mitchell competes in the River City Rumble today in Chamberlain.

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