CLINTON – After contributing to a team state berth as a freshman three years ago, Kyle Guilliams thought he would have made a return trip to Des Moines by now.
But difficult district brackets, nagging injuries and poor fate prevented the Clinton senior wrestler's repeat appearance.
Now, with districts looming on Saturday in Bettendorf, Guilliams, a senior, knows this is his last chance.
"Last year, I felt like I was pressured to make it. I thought I was going to all year but didn't make it," Guilliams said. "Sophomore year, I thought I was going to make it, too, but didn't end up making it then, either."
With a team berth seemingly out of the question, Guilliams will have to maneuver out of a tricky (albeit familiar) 152-pound bracket.
Clinton will be joined in the Class 3A District meet by Mississippi Athletic Conference foes Davenport Central, Davenport North, Davenport West, Davenport Central, Muscatine, North Scott, Pleasant Valley and host Bettendorf – all of which competed in the conference tournament Jan. 26 in Burlington.
As such, that meet provides a genuine measuring stick for Guilliams, who has garnered the opportunity to scout the remaining roadblocks on his path to state.
On paper, the 152-pound division on Saturday presents itself as a three-man race with only two state berths granted to the champion and runner-up.
Guilliams finished third behind North Scott's Jake Matthaidess (ranked eighth in the state) and Bettendorf's Bradley Hill, who will have the luxury of competing in front of his home crowd.
Guilliams lost to Matthaidess (fall, 2:30) and did not face Hill in the MAC tournament.
He feels confident in his chances of snagging a top-two finish.
"I think I have a pretty good shot of making it out there," Guilliams said.
Guilliams doesn't have to turn far for advice in completing his quest. His older brother, Justin, made it to state as a freshman and was a major part of the team's collective berth three years ago when Guilliams was a freshman and Justin a senior. Justin now wrestles at the University of Northern Iowa.
Guilliams said he wants to follow in his brother's footsteps – and then some.
"He has made me who I am today partly because he made me work harder when he was on the team with me," Guilliams said. "I just want to do better than he does."
Bruised ribs limited Guilliams last season, an injury he battled through particularly in the first half of the season as to not derail his postseason objective. This year, however, he said he has been full strength, which has been illustrated by an impressive 24-8 record.
"This season has been a lot better than last season," Guilliams said. "I was hurt last season the first half, I came back this season ready to go and looking to make it to state."
The 2018-19 campaign has presented its own series of plights, though, including sporadic training sessions due to inclement weather, which, in turn, closes school and cancels practice and meets.
But Guilliams' dedication is unwavering, as he can be seen in the weight room before class when there is school and maintains motivation on snow (or cold, or ice) days.
"I work out before school almost every day and after school for practice," Guilliams said. "I've been lifting and running at my house when we don't have school but I've been practicing any time I can."
When he hits the mat on Saturday, he says all of the outside noise and pressure will subside, leaving him to focus on one thing.
"I'm just going out to wrestle," Guilliams said. "I'm just trying to move my hands and feet and score as many as points as I can."