VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. Roger "Bronc" McCovey bounced back from his first loss of the year to earn the chance to wrestle for third place at the National High School Coaches Association National Wrestling Championship and Convention in Virginia Beach on Thursday.
After going 2-0 on the first day of the tournament Wednesday, McCovey, a junior from Del Norte High, went 3-1 to earn All-American honors at the national tournament.
The NHSCA tournament is considered one of the top events for high school wrestlers in the nation. The All-American honors are given to the top eight finishers.
He is competing in the junior division of the event, which has championships for all high school grade levels.
McCovey's only loss came in the third match of the day against the D1 heavyweight champion from New York, Ken Altarac, in a tight 3-2 match.
Early in the bout, while battling near the end of the mat, McCovey was going out of bounds.
Altarac, who still had his toes in-bounds, was able to pull McCovey down from the mat for the take down and two points. This was the first time all season that McCovey has had a take down against him.
The match was evenly matched the rest of the way, but Altarac held on for the 3-2 win, said Del Norte High assistant wrestling coach Clinton Schaad, who is with McCovey at the tournament. Altarac will be competing today for the junior heavyweight title.
"I could have beaten (Altarac)" a disappointed McCovey said in a phone interview. "I just got lazy at the end of the mat and I got taken down."
After the match to Altarac Schaad said while McCovey was not happy with himself for the loss, he said Roger competed hard. At an event with such elite competition, every point counts, he said.
"He's having a great tournament," Schaad said. "Everyone loses, even Roger. He'll focus and bounce back in his next match."
Schaad was right on.
McCovey came out sharp in his next contest against Jack Burbank of Virginia, the state AAA champ, handily winning
"He's a competitor. He bounced back really well," Schaad said. "He looked really good on his feet."
Schaad said this tournament features top wrestlers from the entire country and McCovey is showing why he is considered one of the best wrestlers in the nation by earning, at the least, a fourth place finish, but hopefully garnering third.
"It's a really big deal," Schaad said, adding for a competitor like McCovey, it's good to face the best wrestlers around.
"You want to face the best competition and get better," he said.
McCovey said wrestling in Virginia has been a great experience for him.
"It's been good to come here and know for a fact I'm one of the best in the nation," McCovey said.
The first two matches on Thursday, McCovey cruised to a 14-0 victory over a grappler from Wisconsin who placed fourth in his state tournament. His next match was against Nate Lavalle, the two-time heavyweight champion from Maine, who he defeated 10-3.
On Wednesday, McCovey defeated two top wrestlers who placed second overall in their respective state championships.
The tournament ends tonight with the championship matches, which will begin after 7 p.m. Eastern time.
McCovey will face Lavalle for the second time.
McCovey finished the season in California undefeated in the heavyweight division, culminating with the state title win in Bakersfield on March 1.