I’ve been good at a lot of things in my young life, but there is usually something that has stood in my way.
That could be injury, boredom, having to get a job — the usual suspects of a high schooler.
If you’ve read my columns during football season, you know by now that I was a standout, NFL-bound left tackle at age 14, but my future Hall of Fame career was tragically cut short before high school due to an ACL tear (and also due to my desire to be in the marching band.)
I’ve been plagued by injuries.
By my 18th birthday, I had two reconstructed knees, a repaired shoulder and back issues stemming from a jump rope and trampoline accident. Don’t ask.
I’ve always loved to play sports — either organized or backyard fun. Even now as an overweight, out of shape 24-year-old, I regularly drive up to Tampa to meet up with a group of friends and play football and ultimate frisbee.
Having joined the marching band as a freshman, the only sport I could compete in was wrestling, which I joined in the summer before my sophomore year.
I was athletic, but needed to cut weight to get down to 220 pounds, and knew nothing of the condition and technique accompanying the sport. Boy, was I in for a shock at the first practice.
We did what they called “25-20s.” It started with 25 wide-set pushups, then 25 military pushups, 25 tricep pushups and finishing with 25 squat thrusts.
Take a breath.
Then do 24, then do 23, all the way down to 20. Then curl up into a ball and cry.
By my first match, I had gotten stronger and picked up a few moves from wrestling our best guy, who was 10 pounds heavier then I was. Wrestling at a preseason tournament at Brandon High School, a program known for its 18-year state championship streak, I only wrestled one kid that day and beat him 6-4.
And, in true Hoag fashion, the next practice I tore my labrum in my right shoulder and didn’t come back to the team, thus ending my undefeated wrestling career.
This week, area wrestlers start their bid for an undefeated season as the high school wrestling season kicks off.
Last year, Charlotte wrestler Donnie Cataldi did just that, going undefeated on his way to a state title. Teammate Lucas Willis joined him on the title hunt as well, winning a second consecutive state championship.
But don’t be surprised if the next state title season comes from Lemon Bay.
Last season, in Mike Schyck’s second season as head coach, the Mantas won their second consecutive regional championship and sent seven wrestlers to the state meet. Now, his son Lance Schyck joins the team from Imagine School, where he competed last year as an 8th grader.
The Tarpons and Mantas also look to be among the top area teams, with plenty of firepower returning.
How will they fare? I don’t know, I haven’t been around these parts long enough to have a gauge. But from what I hear, south Florida should be on the lookout.
The world will never know how good I could’ve been (probably not great), but wrestling is a very unique sport that you can’t really grasp until you participate.
It’s tough, but rewarding, and anyone who does it will tell you the same. Good luck to all who lay it all on the mat this year.
Try to make it more than one match.