Timber Creek's Blaine Shade has wrestling in his blood

Timber Creek's Blaine Shade during introductions before the Timber Creek at Camden Catholic wrestling match on Jan. 4, 2017.

Blaine Shade has been wrestling for most of his life.

But in some ways, the Timber Creek senior feels like he's just getting started.

"Wrestling, that's something we've always done in my family," Shade said. "But I guess you could say I'm finally starting to get into it."

Shade's increased focus and dedication has paid off in a big way through the early part of the season, according to Timber Creek coach Dave Ritz.

Competing at 160 pounds, Shade has an 8-0 record, with five pins along with a technical fall and a forfeit.

He was a good wrestler in his first three years for the Chargers. He looks like a lot more than that in his final season.

"The sky is the limit for Blaine," Ritz said. "He's finally pushing himself in a way he never really did before. And when you combine that work ethic with his God-given athletic ability, there's really no limit to how far he can go."

Shade, who was a key contributor for Timber Creek's undefeated South Jersey Group 4 championship football team, made a major statement with a victory in the Mustang Classic, a high-level tournament at Brick Township on Dec. 28.

Shade scored three victories over quality opponents, including Paulsboro's Santino Morina and High Point's Aric Wingle, and came away convinced this season was going to be special.

"It made me feel like I'm definitely one of the best kids out there," Shade said. "It made me feel like I know what I can do now."

Shade is the last of three brothers who have made a major impact on Timber Creek wrestling.

His brother Bryce, now playing football at Wesley College in Delaware, was a two-time Region 8 champion and placed fourth in the state.

His brother Blaze, now wrestling for North Carolina-Pembroke, also was a Region 8 champion and placed fifth in the state.

"I feel like I have to do something because my brothers both placed in the state," Blaine Shade said. "And I haven't even been there in my three years. I want to get on that state podium."

Shade grew up in a wrestling family, tagging along with his older brothers.

"Everything was always competitive, but for me it was like a learning process, too," Shade said. "They would teach me a lot of things when they were beating me up [on the mat]."

Shade said he was at the Region 8 finals at Egg Harbor Township on the February night in 2012 when Bryce won the 152-pound title as a junior and Blaze won the 170-pound title as a senior.

"They definitely inspired me, being little and watching them from the stands," Shade said. "That was a great day for all of us. . . .

"I was never considered to be as good as them. But now I think I can be better than them."

By his own admission, Shade hasn't always given wrestling his full commitment.

"Ritz is always telling me, 'Be offensive, be offensive,' " Shade said. "It wasn't that I was cautious. It was more I was just lazy. I haven't really pushed myself up to my full potential that I know I can wrestle up to."

Ritz said Shade has been a different wrestler this season.

"I think part of it is his teammates voted him to be a captain," Ritz said. "And part of it is he's a senior and he knows this is his last chance."

Shade said there's another reason for his improvement: his determination to be part of the conversation with his brothers when they are older men looking back at their scholastic careers.

"It would just be cool if we all said how we placed in the state or we all were region champs," Shade said. "I don't want to miss out on that, when we get old talking about the things we did as wrestlers in high school.

"I want to be able to do that, too."