Lincoln High Duals, 2/3/18

Lincoln High's Isaiah Alford (right) wrestles Papillion-La Vista South's Tyler Needham (left) in a 170-pound match at the Lincoln High Duals on Saturday. Alford won all five of his matches at the meet.

KAYLA WOLF, Journal Star

Isaiah Alford, 6 years old at the time, squirmed as his doctor went to see what was on his neck. It was not anything serious, but it helped the Lincoln High junior finding a wrestling career in the future.

The doctor, along with Alford's parents, could not keep him still. That's when the doctor unofficially prescribed Alford into the sport of wrestling.

“I didn't want to be held down so he could look at it, so I kept fighting him and my mom and dad and the doctors were holding me down,” Alford said. “After they checked it out, my doctor introduced Squires Wrestling Club to my dad. The doctor said since I was fighting really hard I should be wrestling.”

Now the Links' 170-pound junior is 40-0 and looking to capture the state title in just his second trip to state. That record has made him a target, and he is OK with that.

“It's a very humbling thing,” Alford said of his record. ”Anything can happen in wrestling on any given day, (and) anyone can lose. It's humbling, because knowing I'm undefeated and have a target on my back, everyone is shooting to come beat me. Everyone wants my first loss to be to them, and that makes me have to come out on my 'A' game and wrestle my match.”

“I honestly like being 40-0 and having an undefeated record, because it pushes me to be a better wrestler and wrestle my hardest every single match. Any wrong move, slip or anything and you can lose. I just feel like it pushes me to be at the best of my abilities.”

Although Alford's record says 40-0, he looks at it from a different view. He uses the clichéd "one match at a time."

“Every week or just after every match I am 0-0,” Alford said. “I don't like to think back on my wins or any of those on how I won my match. I just know after a match is done, to let the match go, because the next match is going to be different than the last match.”

Alford's season comes after a year of disappointment, according to him, as a sophomore at the state tournament. A record of 36-10 is nothing to scoff at, but Alford wasn't happy with a sixth-place podium finish.

Despite starting wrestling at a young age, it was not something Alford always considered fun. After fifth grade, he was done.

“The success just wasn't there,” Alford said. “At the time I found football, and was having success and focused on that.

“I was drawn back into (wrestling) and I thought I'd try it again and see what it was like.”

As a freshman, Alford wrestled at 145 pounds, having to cut weight nearly each week as he struggled. After Links coach Andy Genrich suggested Alford move up to 170, where he could gain pounds, the success started to roll in.

“(Genrich) is a huge part,” Alford said. “I remember my freshman year, I was cutting (weight) pretty hard and the season just wasn't fun. I mean it was fun, but after tournaments having to make weight and suck back down and not being able to eat the things that you wanted to eat.

“It drained me out and at the point I wasn't really liking wrestling and it wasn't as fun, but me and Genrich had a talk. (Genrich) said, 'I understand that you are cutting a lot of weight and it is not fun, but you just have to trust the process and buy in.”

Alford bought in, moving up to 170 pounds.

“He has been there alongside me the whole time, been there for me even when I was playing football. (Genrich) has always been around helping and caring. Little things add up to big things and he has been a very big part.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or tgray@journalstar.com.

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