I hate writing this one. I wish I never had to. But it is the most compelling part of the post-season tournament series.
When you’re trying to live-tweet, or semi-livetweet, three different region tournaments all at once, reactions to what’s actually being recorded on those Trackwrestling brackets can be missed.
But as I told my son, who was with me at Bolles Saturday as the semis and consi rounds unfolded, Saturday afternoon breaks a lot of hearts.
You can see it occasionally at the district level, when seniors who’ve had their struggles to find traction in this most difficult sport see that struggle come to its conclusion. I saw it a couple of times over at Westside, weekend before last.
But the region Saturday…this is the round where it sneaks up. The round where it rips kids’ hearts out.
I don’t know that I saw any seniors close up for whom this occurred. A couple of younger kids, yes…there was a notable couple, one from Florida High and one from Suwannee (Interestingly, they were in the same weight class).
But both of them will be back to try again. Or can be.
These guys can’t. Not as high schoolers anyway. For most, this weekend is their last time as competitive wrestlers. Of the 23 kids last year that this happened to, only three signed letters to wrestle — that I was made aware of — and only two saw mat time.
(pulls out 2017 text at this point because I won’t be able to write it any better than I did a year ago)
That’s why I feel sorrow for these kids that follow in this list, the seniors whose careers ended in the blood round on Saturday, because precious few teenagers are willing to step up and do what it takes just to even say that they are wrestlers, let alone be good enough to have a chance to find out the answers on the state stage. Precious damn few.
I know how hard they’ve worked, and, at the same time, I will never, ever truly know.
I celebrate the kids who gain success by writing about them, and I have probably written something about each of these kids. Some of them, I’ve written several somethings (puts 2017 text away).
Tim Messick. Gunnar Nebel. Sam Buatu. Jevonte Hagan. Brenden Teaman. Owen Moore. Jacky Grissom. Max Patterson. Mason Judd. Rocky O’Rourke. Reggie Toombs. Noah Young. Xavier Molina. Jamari Broussard.
Calvin Altman and Blake Dicks, both of whom I interviewed only for the first time just the week earlier when they won district titles. Austin Benton, whose younger brother James made it to states this same past weekend. Austin Nolan, who put the Chiles program on his back this year. Nick Woodward, who just missed state podium last year, two weight classes up from where he wrestled this year. Corey Ryan, who maxed the ACT last year. Aaron Menden, who’d never won a tournament before this year. Isaiah Graham, who never had a better tournament run than he did last Friday and Saturday morning only to see it come up short.
Ethan Gustilo. Nobody worked harder to get better at this sport over the last three years. Show me somebody who started where Gustilo’s level was three years ago and is better than him now. You’ll search a long time.
I look forward to seeing the kind of men you will turn out to be because of your time as a wrestler. But today, I am still devastated for you, and with you.