Ask Melvin Hernandez what his career record is and he’ll only give you one number — nine.

That’s how many times he’s lost in first three years at David City.

“I only know my losses. Wins take care of themselves,” the senior wrestler said. “I expect to win every time. Losses are what push me to get better.”

Now in his final season, he has his eye on an undefeated record and third state title.

“I want to win every match every time I step out onto the mat,” Hernandez said.

He lost twice as a junior and once as a sophomore, so that undefeated season has so far eluded him, but he doesn’t want to shy away from competition just to win.

“For me, if there’s a tough kid, I want to wrestle them,” he said. “If I lose, it just proves that I didn’t work hard enough or there’s something I can get better at.”

He’s driven by defeat, but it’s something he hasn’t experienced much in his high school career.

David City head coach Tanner Thiem recognized Hernandez's talent before he even got to high school.

“Thiem told me when I was in eighth grade that I could be one of the best wrestlers to go through David City,” Hernandez said. “Since then I’ve believed it.”

He may have believed it too much his freshman year, when Hernandez lost six matches and finished fifth at the state tournament.

“My freshman year, I wasn’t really focused on it. It was just like, 'Yeah, I can do this.’ I didn’t put in everything I could,” Hernandez said. “I told myself that’s never happening again.”

And it hasn’t.

Hernandez is trying to become David City’s second-ever three-time state champion. Only Scott Stara has done that, winning three straight 275-pound crowns from 1990-92.

Every time he wins, Hernandez comes back and works even harder the next year.

“I have a target on my back. Everybody is chasing me, but I’m not going to let them catch me,” he said.

This summer, Hernandez drove to Omaha three times a week to practice at MWC Wrestling Academy. He trained in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, improving his abilities.

While his focus is on winning his third state title, he still wants to help his team as much as possible.

He’s starting the season at 145 pounds, up from 138 a year ago. But Hernandez is willing to move to help his team.

“It really depends on what my team is looking like. We’ll look at best fits,” he said.

After all, he expects the Scouts to be in the hunt for a state team title in February.

“We’re always on a run for a state championship,” Hernandez said. “Wherever they need me, that’s where I'll go."

— Kollin Miller