When Jack Stone first stepped into the gym at Osceola High School this past Friday for the Florida High School Athletic Association state championships, he wasn’t entering unfamiliar territory.
Though he’s just a freshman at Venice High, Stone has been in the stands watching his older siblings — Dan and Lauren — win state titles of their own.
He started by wrestling Dan and Lauren in the basement of their families’ Ohio home about 10 years ago, and he was already competing in tournaments by the time he was 5.
He hasn’t stopped wrestling with them since — with Lauren serving as his wrestling partner this year — and it’s paid off with a school-record 44 wins for a freshman and his first trip to the state championships.
However, it was a little bit of a different experience competing than watching, Jack said.
“Being on the mat is kinda different than being in the stands,” Jack Stone said. “It’s a lot more pressure, and I think that affected me on the second day.”
“It kind of excited me while I was warming up, but it made me more nervous when I was going into the match.”
Stone went 2-1 on Day 1 of the state meet, beating Nick Davenport of Jensen Beach, 8-0, and Patrick Nolan of Charlotte High, 11-0, but fell to Shaun Culbreth of Matanzas High School in overtime, 11-7.
While he still had a shot to place as high as 3rd place, Stone was pinned 2:39 into his fist match of Day 2 against Rocco Senia of Palm Bay High School — ending his season and his chance at placing at states.
Lauren and Gage Tippman also joined Jack at states this year, with each of them losing their first two matches as they were eliminated on Day 1.
“I would have definitely been more ready,” said Jack Stone on what he’d do differently. “I went out pretty nervous because I knew it was the blood round. Just placing was my big thought.
“I felt kind of flat-footed and not myself, really.”
While he didn’t come away with the result he was looking for in Kissimmee, the experience was a valuable one for the Indians freshman who has plans on returning to the tournament in future seasons.
But for now, he gets to take a brief break.
He started by immediately going to McDonald’s after the tournament — a well-deserved reward following a season of trying to stay at or under 113 pounds.
His order made it clear just how long he’d been waiting to devour some fast food: A bacon Big Mac, a double quarter pounder and a large milkshake to top it off.
“I’ll probably move up two weight classes because 113 was a pretty hard cut for me,” he said of his plans for next year. “Like Saturday, I gained 10 pounds afterwards. We ordered a lot of McDonald’s because we were right next to it.”
Following about a two-week break, Stone will shift his focus back on wrestling as he gets back to lifting weights and conditioning himself for the 2019-2020 school year.
Thinking back on Dan’s state title in 2018, Jack smiles as he remembers his brother’s emotion at capturing a championship — something that’s motivated him to want to win his own state title.
“That was great. It was a good moment,” he said. “I was there and Dan put so much work into that. You could really tell.”
With three more years of high school to go, Jack will get plenty of opportunities to continue living up to the legacy of his family’s name at Venice High.
And as far as his coaches are concerned, there’s nothing stopping him from adding his name to the list of state champion Stones.
“The sky’s the limit, for sure,” Venice coach Pat Ryan said. “And he knows that, I think. If he doesn’t, he will. His work ethic, his attitude, his desire. All that stuff.
“And also having the relationship he does with the rest of the team. That all factors into it. Wrestling isn’t an easy sport. It’s rough. We really run them through the gauntlet and make them wonder some days why they do it when they can barely walk out of a room because they’re exhausted. But having that camaraderie and the teammates to rely on, the sky is the limit.”