The Jesuit Tigers haven't had so many wrestlers on their practice mat at this time of the year in two decades. The Tigers are sending nine of their 14 varsity starters to the State Wrestling Finals.
"Anytime your kids' hard work pays off, it's very rewarding as a coach," said Mike Scicchitano. "Like I told them before the tournament even ended last week, we don't really have time to celebrate and be happy. We have bigger things in mind and goals."
While this weekend will be all about wrestling, getting ready for the state championships isn't entirely about wrestling. The Tigers' practice plan includes dodge ball.
"It needs to be a fun week," said Scicchitano. "It's a great opportunity for them to go out just reward themselves for a lot of hard work. So keep it loose. Keep it fun."
So what brings out the most competition on the team?
"I say it's a little bit of both," laughs sophomore wrestler Adam Lewis. "It's supposed to be fun."
The Tigers are relaxed and ready. Austin Underwood returns to the finals ranked as the 19th best heavyweight in the country. The senior wrestler is on a mission, driven by a loss at last year's state finals.
"It definitely has motivated me my whole off season, and every time I train," said Underwood. "I train differently. Just looking at wrestling, differently."
It's been ten years since the Tigers have had a state wrestling champion, and they have a chance to eclipse their entire list of six state champs in one weekend.
"That would be big," said Lewis. "That would be really big. I think we can get multiple names up there this year."
The Tigers know it won't be easy, as they'll have to face a mighty Brandon Eagles team that is gunning for a 14th straight state team title.
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