CHAMPAIGN – Maxx Hubbard finished his high school career with an Incredible Hulk pose for an overjoyed Newman cheering section, but it was far from a solo effort.
Hours and hours of extra training with his family helped Hubbard reach his ultimate goal – a state championship. He did it with a dominating 8-0 decision against Wilmington’s Andy Rodawold on Saturday in the Class 1A 132-pound weight class at the state wrestling tournament at Assembly Hall.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Hubbard said. “I’ve never been so happy in my life. Nothing compares to this. Nothing is more rewarding than wrestling is.”
Hubbard was no stranger to the state tournament. He took second at 130 pounds as a junior, and was also a qualifier at 119 pounds his sophomore and freshman seasons. This season, nothing but a state title was acceptable.
To do that, he went the extra mile. Three nights a week, he lifted weights with his father, Phil. He also trained with his older brother, Austin, an MMA fighter.
On weekends, Maxx wrestled with his cousin, Sheldon Hubbard, a former Sterling High School standout.
“It was Team Hubbard all the way,” Maxx said.
“They pushed him,” Newman coach Steve Davis said. “They put him over the top.”
Hubbard (42-2) had crushed Rodawold (36-3) 15-4 in the finals of the Princeton tournament, and was never in danger in their second meeting this season.
“It gave me more confidence, but I still knew he wasn’t to be taken lightly,” Hubbard said of handling Rodawold in their first meeting. “I knew he probably watched the film of me and him, so he’d be a little bit more prepared this time than he was last time.”
Hubbard opened and closed the match with takedowns, and worked in three back points in for good measure. It was a display worthy of a wrestler who has become more complete as a senior. Davis described Hubbard as ‘well-rounded.’
“He’s always been good on his feet,” Davis said, “and he’s always been good getting off the bottom. He found a way to tip guys this year that just made him so strong in all three aspects that he found the confidence to beat anybody.”