Soroco's Joel Schlegal is a sophomore in appearance and in stature, weighing just 103 pounds. But nothing about the way Schlegal wrestled this season, particularly this weekend, says underclassman.
Despite limited varsity experience and no state tournament experience, Schlegal came to the 2005 State Wrestling Championships eyeing a top-four finish. He got it, placing fourth Saturday in his first state tournament.
But the competitor in him wasn't satisfied with fourth, having been in the state field.
"I wanted third," Schlegal.
Third was the best Schlegal could have done after dropping a quarterfinal bout to Lyons' Mikel Munro, 8-4, on Friday morning.
Schlegal and Munro had a rematch in the bout for third place, and Munro edged out Schlegal, 4-3, with a third-period takedown Saturday.
Schlegal got the first takedown in the first period, working a single-leg until he drove Munro to the mat. Munro responded with a takedown in the second. Schlegal was awarded a point -- and the lead -- on an illegal hold from Munro.
"He was scissoring my head," Schlegal said.
But Munro got the final say with a takedown shortly thereafter. Schlegal couldn't escape in the final 30 seconds to tie things up.
"I wanted to see him again and do better than the first time," Schlegal said.
Soroco coach Doug Gates thought Schlegal wrestled well for his first trip to the state tournament and predicted that Schlegal eventually will be pleased with his fourth-place finish, even if he wasn't totally satisfied Saturday afternoon.
"He had it in his mind that he could beat that kid," Gates said.
Throughout the season, Schlegal and Gates found it easy to explain his success. Schlegal didn't wrestle last year because of an injury, but he enjoyed tremendous success at the junior high level. But many successful middle school wrestlers don't enjoy equal success in high school. The difference is that Schlegal made a commitment to excel, he said.
"I know a lot of the rules," he said. "I understand the sport, I feel. Some kids don't take the time to figure it out."
To get to Munro, Schlegal pinned John Mall freshman Stewart Maldonado in 45 seconds and pinned Wiggins junior Marquis Springer in 5:29.
In Schlegal's first match, Maldonado and Schlegal circled the match for the first 20 seconds before Maldonado shot in to try to take Schlegal down. Maldonado never got off his back.
"He took a bad shot," Schlegal said.
In Schlegal's second match, Springer, one of just two upperclassmen in the 103-pound bracket, scored the first points on a takedown at the end of the first.
Schlegal began the third period in the bottom position, ahead 5-3. He got a reversal early in the period and put Springer on his back for three back points. Schlegal turned Springer again and pinned the Wiggins wrestler with 21 seconds left in the match.
He held up four fingers, signifying his guaranteed top four finish.
Schlegal finished the season 31-8 and will return as one of the state's elite lower-weight wrestlers next year.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org