Indomitable on the mat: Meet The Charlotte Observer’s boys’ prep athlete of the year

The perfect record, the four state championships, all the trophies, and the standing ovations ... Cameron Stinson cherishes all of that.

But Stinson said there is something else that makes him proud, as he heads off to college.

“I wanted to make things a little better at Mallard Creek than when I arrived,” Stinson said. “And I think I helped do that.”

Mallard Creek wrestler, Cameron Stinson, poses for a portrait in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, May 30, 2024.
Mallard Creek wrestler, Cameron Stinson, poses for a portrait in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, May 30, 2024.

Stinson, who won his fourth N.C. High School Athletic Association state wrestling championship and completed a 205-0 high school career in February, is the repeat winner as The Charlotte Observer boys’ athlete of the year.

Stinson, who already is enrolled in classes at UNC, completed a perfect high school career with a third-period pin of Purnell Swett’s DeVon Connor for the 126-pound 4A state title in February.

“When it was over, I gave out a big sigh,” he said. “It was a true feeling of accomplishment.”

But Stinson said playing a role in the development of the Mallard Creek wrestling program is something he takes pride in.

“When I was a freshman, not many people talked about wrestling,” he said. “But over the years, that has changed. There were 20 kids on the team when I was a sophomore. This year, there were 40 to 50 involved.”

“Now Mallard Creek is a wrestling power,” he said.

And Stinson is doing what he can to keep the pipeline going. Over the past year, he has started working with younger wrestlers.

“Every Wednesday, I trained two kids — a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader,” he said. “One of the kids told me he needed a coach, so I stepped in. It’s was a chance for me to give something back to the sport.”

Stinson was the 14th N.C. wrestler to win four NCHSAA state championships and the third to go undefeated through high school. The other two — John Mark Bently of Avery County and Mike Kendall of Albemarle — wrestled in the 1980s and 1990s and had about 50 fewer matches than Stinson.

There were two matches this season that worried Stinson a bit.

The first was shortly after Christmas, in the Rock Hill Bearcat Invitational.

“The guy I wrestled from South Carolina was one of my best friends,” Stinson said. “It was probably the hardest high school match I ever had.”

And his state-final match against Connor also was a challenge.

“He beat me in a Greco-Roman tournament,” Stinson said. “People wondered if he would beat me again. Winning that match by a pin was a great way to cap a career.”

Stinson began summer classes in Chapel Hill this week and said he is eager about starting his college career.

Does he believe he’ll never be beaten?

“I don’t know about that,” Stinson said. “My goal is to work hard and keep improving. It’s worked for me so far.”