Woodstock’s Tristan Watson and Zach Shareef along with River Ridge’s Noah Smith are just three of nearly a dozen wrestlers who will be taking another crack at placing in the state tournament early next year.
Watson, Shareeff, and Smith all finished off the podium last year, but are doing what they can to make sure that doesn’t happen again this season.
Watson, a senior who wrestles at 120, was a fifth seed going into the state tournament last year. He suffered a first round loss, but won his call-back bout. He finished 1-2. This season—his final one in high school—he wants to place.
“That was my second time there and I came very close to placing,” Watson said. “I really wanted to come back. I should have placed. I’m going for it all, hopefully, this year. It’s my last shot. Third time is the charm.”
Smith, who wrestles 152-pounds, finished eighth at sectionals a year ago and in his words “did bad” at state.
“It was my first experience,” he said.
The state meet was the biggest competition that Smith had participated in up until that point and he admits that it was a bit overwhelming. With that experience behind him, the Woodstock junior is ready to take the next step.
“It was amazing, but nerve racking,” Smith said. “There was so much stuff going on all at once.”
Last year when he reached the state tournament, Smith became the first wrestler in River Ridge history to do so. He said it is nice to hold that position, but that it does bring a lot of expectation along with it.
“There are major expectations,” he said. “But I’m excited about it.”
Shareef, another junior who moved up from 138 to wrestle at 145 this season, also hopes to learn from his state experience. He also finished 1-2 in the state tournament.
“I think I was ready for it,” he said. “I did a lot of competitions over the summer to get ready for it, just like this year. I would have liked to have done better, but that was a learning experience. (This time) I think that I will have a shot to place, no doubt.”
While the season is still young, the wrestlers have been using each competition to learn and gauge where they stand against opponents. Often they can face the same opponent again at county, regional, sectional and even at the state meet.
Shareef said the biggest challenge for him is finding partners to practice with. The Woodstock program doesn’t have many wrestlers in his class that are up for the challenge.
“I end up wrestling with the coaches and the light weights,” he said. “Around my weight we don’t have too many guys for me to wrestle.”
All three will get to test their skills this weekend at the 16-team Woodstock Invitational, which begins tonight and continues on Saturday.
Other wrestlers who made a trip to the state tournament last year, but making another attempt at a state title include: Creekview’s Hunter Smith, Joseph Sorrentino and Ryan Camp and Cherokee’s Blake Walker.