When Leavenworth's Jesse Colver enters the wrestling mat at Hartman Arena Friday, just one thing will be racing through his head — the color gold.
The Pioneer senior, along with hundreds of other grapplers from around the state, will descend upon Wichita this weekend for the 5A State Wrestling Championships.
For Colver, that means one last shot at achieving the one thing he has never done during his high school career — win a state crown.
"It would kind of be like the end of a chapter," the upperclassmen said. "It would be the greatest feeling on the earth, being at the top of the podium amongst all the great wrestlers in my weight division."
But to get there it has taken time, patience, and beyond everything else, hard work. The story of how Colver, who enters this weekend's tournament ranked No. 6 in the 220-pound 5A class by KansasWrestling.org, begins at a young age.
"When my father got stationed in Tennessee, I used to do martial arts and my parents looked for a way to replace it," the wrestler said. "When I got done with Pop Warner Football, the local (wrestling) team was real close to where we lived, so we just hopped into wrestling."
Once Colver got into wrestling, he developed an eminence passion for the sport.
"It's not like an hourly thing that you just do two hours after school, it's an all-day thing you have to think about," he said. "I have dreams about it."
Thus, after moving to Leavenworth, the young man joined the Leavenworth County Spartan youth wrestling program. That led into the Pioneer High School program, where Colver began to blossom.
"Jesse has improved tremendously throughout his career," Leavenworth head wrestling coach Jay Johnston said. "He has worked extremely hard in the weight room transforming himself from a gangly freshman into a very powerful 210-pound frame.
"He has honed his skills by wrestling in the Leavenworth County Spartan youth program throughout his high school career in the offseason and pretty much living in the weight room."
That work ethic molded Colver into the pillar of Pioneer wrestling that he is today. The grit and determination he showed throughout his whole high school career allowed the senior to increase his winning percentage every season.
From a 4-7 freshman mark, to a 15-11 sophomore record and then a 30-12 junior campaign, the grappler enters this weekend's state tournament with a 29-6 record to his name.
"Always going after it, never letting your tank run out of fuel," Colver said. "It's defiantly something I took as a personal project for myself to get better every year."
"He lost his varsity spot as a sophomore to another very tough wrestler," Johnston said. "Jesse just went back to work and the next year he was a state placer with over 30 wins and was a tremendous leader the whole year.
"To use what could have been something negative — instead to use it to transform himself into a better wrestler, athlete and leader is a tremendous example to young athletes."
That success belongs to Colver, yet he shares with so many more. The young man has not forgot the people around him that helped him along the way.
"We have a really good coaching staff here," Colver said. "All of our coaches are loving guys. They are pretty much like family.
"I also have the luxury of wrestling a two-time state champion every day in practice. It's defiantly benefited me more than anyone else ever could."
The Pioneer he is referring to is teammate and fellow LV senior star Nathan Butler, who enters this weekend's state meet a perfect 40-0 and looking to capture his third state title. Butler will wrestle next year at Stanford University on scholarship.
"He has always been one or two steps ahead of me," Colver said. "Yet, he is always willing to help me and do everything he can to make me better, as well as himself."
As far as the future for Colver goes, nothing is set in stone at this time. However, military is a definite priority going forward, whether that includes wrestling or not.
"If I can get a scholarship for ROTC and it doesn't come with wrestling, then I'll take it," the Pioneer said. "If I can find one for both, I'm definitely willing to do both, but ROTC comes first."
No matter what decision he makes, though, it will have little effect on this weekend.
And honestly, whether Colver walks off the mats at Hartman arena with gold in hand or nothing at all, he is still a champion to most.
"I have never seen that young man break mentally and he has set the standard for toughness in the Pioneer wrestling program," Johnston said. "He never complains, he never found a reason to not show up or get the job done. I could always count on Jesse to show up and work hard all of the time.
"When he loses, he shakes the opponents hand, and always handles everything like a champion."