Last year, when Anthony Lorenzo won an individual title at the state 1-2-3A wrestling championships, his Nikiski High School teammates almost seemed to be more excited for him than he was for himself.
Nikiski wrestling coach Abe Porter explained why everyone was thrilled to see Lorenzo pull through for his first state championship.
"He comes in as an underdog, and we're the only ones who know what he can do," Porter said. "He finally steps up and proves it, and it just happens to be at the state tournament."
As thrilling as the come-from-behind victory was, and as exciting as it was to see a wrestler claim a state title, Lorenzo just seemed to know it was something he had in him, and, while amazed at his feat, was also almost matter-of-fact when describing the road to his triumph.
"I knew I was capable of it, it just came down to how hard I practiced," Lorenzo said after the state championship meet last year.
Lorenzo, now a senior, is back to defend his title at 152 pounds this season, and while there are some new challenges to overcome, the methodology will be the same.
"I'm just going to go all out and let whatever happens happen," Lorenzo said after practice last week.
Lorenzo said he'd like to defend his individual title, but he's certainly got his work cut out for himself. Lorenzo placed second at the season-opening Houston Invitational, losing on points, 4-2, in the finals to Barrow's Spencer Hirt, last year's individual champion at 145.
"He's going to be the biggest competition in my weight class," Lorenzo said. "I've got to learn some more stuff and see if it works against him next time."
Lorenzo didn't get a rematch with Hirt at the Grace Invitational this past weekend he dropped a 4-3 decision to Gage Graika of Valdez in the tournament semifinal and was able to rebound and wrestle to a third-place finish but he also doesn't measure his success in terms of championships won.
"I feel like I can go out there and put up a good match with whoever," Lorenzo said. "There's a little bit of pressure (to repeat), but for the most part, it's still the same go out there and wrestle."
Lorenzo said self-reliance is what drew him to wrestling in the first place.
"I like that you can't blame your mistakes on anyone else," Lorenzo said. "It's a head-to-head matchup, you have to take responsibility for yourself."
Lorenzo said he first started wrestling with Nikiski's middle school program, having been talked into it by Steve Gillaspie, the pied piper of the Bulldogs' athletic program.
Though Gillaspie has since left Nikiski for Sitka, Lorenzo has stuck with athletics. In addition to wrestling, Lorenzo also ran on the Nikiski cross country team that went to the state championships in 2001, where he finished a respectable 33rd, and has played basketball, soccer and football for the Bulldogs.
Lorenzo said he also enjoys baseball (he's rooting for the Marlins), and while he wasn't able to play last summer, he'd like to play this summer, if time allows.
Lorenzo played football this fall at the urging of his father, Paul, after not playing since his freshman year.
"It had it's ups and downs, but it was definitely a fun experience," Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo said that athletics has played an important role in his high school career, providing a positive outlet for his energies.
"It's kept me busy, and not let me slip into any bad situations," Lorenzo said. "It keeps me in shape, and it helps get rid of any stress."
Lorenzo plans to attend college next fall, and the search is under way both for a school and for scholarship opportunities. Lorenzo said his grade point average is around 3.3, and his career goal is to pass on the type of encouragement he's received from coaches and teachers during his high school career.
"I'm going for physical education teaching and coaching," Lorenzo said, adding that his inspiration included "all the teachers that have been supportive of me. It makes me want to do the same thing."
Lorenzo said that right now, he mostly eats, sleeps and wrestles. He also spends a lot of time with his dog, Littlesone, a miniature pinscher. Fortunately, they have similar hobbies.
"It's lazy, so it will always just find you and take a nap," Lorenzo said.
Of course, Lorenzo will be plenty active on the wrestling mat over the next two months. The football season overlapped the beginning of the small-schools wrestling season, and Lorenzo said he was double-dipping for couple of weeks, going to football practice, then finishing up in the mat room.
"I was pretty anxious to get back to wrestling," Lorenzo said.
As a senior, Porter said Lorenzo will play a leadership role on this year's team.
"I just lead by example," Lorenzo said. "I go 100 percent at practice, and if I see something that shouldn't be going on, I say something about it.
"We've got a lot of potential this year. Get a few more bodies out, and we could make a run at a state title."
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