In middle school, Rick Weaver started wrestling to cross-train for another sport.
“I started wrestling to get better at football,” Weaver said. “I’ve been playing football since I was six and I never played flag football, I went straight into tackle football. Wrestling was only to help me get better at football.”
The decision couldn’t have worked out better.
On Saturday, the Covenant senior closed out his high school wrestling career with his fourth straight state title to earn Schewels Athlete of the Week honors.
The journey featured plenty of ups and downs, but the results speak for themselves. As a freshman, Weaver avenged an earlier loss to Benedictine senior Ian Williams with a victory in the state finals to capture his first Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state title.
On Saturday, Weaver faced another Cadet in the finals and defeated junior Isaiah Daughtry by fall in 56 seconds to become just the 12th wrestler in VISAA history to win four state titles. In addition, the win also secured Covenant the team state title.
“Like my mom always says, you have to finish what you started,” Weaver said. “[Wrestling] prepared me to hunt and to be an Eagle, you have to fly over different obstacles that might get in your way while on your path to excellence.”
The senior turned in a dominant performance at the state tournament. All four of his victories came by fall, including three within the first minute of the match. Weaver’s longest match of the day came in the semifinals, when he defeated Woodberry Forest’s Bill Clark in the final second of the second period.
“It has been a blessing to see Rick grow as a competitor over the past four seasons,” Covenant wrestling coach Brian Lee said. “In his freshman year, he actually lost to his opponent twice during the regular season, but he kept improving, used those defeats as learning experiences, and finally got him when they wrestled in the state finals.”
Weaver couldn’t be prouder to win team and individual gold in his final season.
“It means that I have put in the time and so have my teammates,” he said. “Even though we are a really small team, we have a really big heart. Everything played out the way it was for a reason. After all, it’s God’s plan.”
The journey hasn’t been easy for Weaver. A pair of knee injuries almost derailed his championship streak. The senior credits his 11th grade bible teacher, John Collums, for helping him overcome the setbacks through scripture.
“He has been a huge help and a blessing in my life,” Weaver said. “We have talked about the Book of John and how times get hard and in the midst of it all, you have to look up and say that you believe that you will overcome anything that gets in your way. Whenever I need a prayer or anything, he is always there for me.”
He also credits his faith for helping push him through the tough times.
“God is one of the main keys to my success,” Weaver said. “I always have my wrestling coaches pray for me before I got out and compete and that always helps to know God is with you, wherever you go.”
Despite all his success on the mat, Weaver admits there’s still some trepidation prior to his matches.
“I always get nervous before I wrestle, but to calm down, I talk to other guys in my weight class or just anyone who is around,” he said. “I also like to go up to my opponent and do the same. I’m not like other guys and just act rude, all of sudden. I make sure they are okay.”
Prior to his matches, Weaver usually listens to music to get in the zone. When it’s time to wrestle, Weaver is all business.
“Between those six to eight minutes, I flip the switch and a whole other side of me comes out that I can’t control,” Weaver said. “I start to do moves and I don’t even know how to do them. I do whatever I have to do to win.”
He said wrestling helped him with his stance level as a football player and improved his quickness off the ball and utilizing leverage to his advantage. The extra work paid dividends last fall on the gridiron as the Eagles won the Virginia Independent Schools Football League 8-man championship.
A two-way performer as a running back and defensive end, Weaver patterns his game after former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
“I like to bring my football swag to wrestling,” Weaver said. “I try to incorporate the different styles and match my shoes, socks knee pad sleeves and anything else that I wear on the mat. I am a small heavyweight wrestler, but I don’t let that stop me from going all out to win.”
Off the mat, Weaver is a well-rounded individual with a wide array of interests. His favorite sport in school is physics and music.
“I like to freestyle [rap] on different beats to see what I can come up with,” Weaver said. “The quarterback at school [Luke Sorensen] got me hooked on it during the summer and whenever we’re together, we just see what we can come up with.”
His love of the arts doesn’t stop there. He’s an a cappella singer at school and has thrived as a bass singer under the leadership of teacher Jerry King. His musical taste is eclectic.
“I like new country music that’s more on the hip-hop side, not so much the old country,” he said. “The new [country] has a nice flow to it that makes everything nice to listen to whenever.”
Weaver also enjoys spending time with his co-workers. His favorite pastime is spending time with his cousin, Brianna Tinsley and sister Mira. “The Three Musketeers”, as they are affectionately known, really bring the best out of one another.
In addition, he takes time to visit the lower campus school at Covenant to mentor younger students.
“I see some of the kids there,” Weaver said, “but I like to visit one kid in particular because we have formed a bond together that has just been amazing.”