Stuart Hall wrestlers Alex McDonald and Jacob Hubbard challenge each other on the practice mat, improving their competitive advantage and leading to third and eighth place medals, respectively, in the section.
The secret to Alex McDonald and Jacob Hubbard's success is surprisingly simple: Ever since the Stuart Hall seniors arrived on campus four years ago as novice wrestlers, the duo has locked horns as practice partners.
In a sport where some say having a partner close in size and ability is the most important element for developing talent, Alex and Jacob are each other's fiercest rivals on the practice mat, and the two most successful wrestlers in school history.
"They would never be where they are today without each other," says Matt Woodard, Stuart Hall High School physics faculty and wrestling head coach, who started the program eight years ago. "Wrestling is a solitary sport, but you need someone to match moves with in practice. In a school of this size, their meeting was divine intervention."
As everyday practice partners for the last four years, both wrestlers' accomplishments are abundant. Jacob is a two-time Bay Counties League champion and finished eighth in this year's North Coast Section 145-pound weight class, which Matt calls "the most competitive in the state."
Alex has four individual league championships and placed third in his last NCS tournament, moving up two spots from a year ago in the 138-pound weight class to earn the first CIF State Championship appearance in program history. On the season, Alex is 29-4 and Jacob is 27-10.
As wrestlers, Jacob is more technical and Alex is more rugged. Matt likens their contrasting tactics to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, two boxing heavyweights with completely different styles yet remarkably similar in their relentlessness.
"We've become so used to each other that we anticipate every move coming," Alex says. "This forces us to expand our range of wrestling moves to the point where we can continue to surprise each other."
This season, Alex and Jacob led their co-ed team to its third straight BCL regular season and tournament title without losing a team match. In the league tournament, Convent & Stuart Hall had six individual weight class champions in a dominating team performance, and eight wrestlers qualified for NCS. At the NCS dual meet, which preceded the individual competition, the team went up against Healdsburg, last year's champions, and beat them to advance to the finals.
Both Alex and Jacob plan to continue their athletic careers in college; Jacob will walk on to a Division I wrestling team while Alex applies his grittiness on the track. But for now, just days removed from a state tournament appearance, Alex can't recall his success without thinking about his practice partner. "I attribute almost all of my success to Jacob," he says. "After four years of wrestling together I would say he's one of my best friends."Photo credit: Ryan Murray, Grade 12