TAMPA — There are three wrestlers at Jesuit High — Adam Lewis, Nick Mosco and Austin Underwood — who shared the same frustration last year in the middle of the Lakeland Center floor.
They each had made it to the state final match in their respective weight classes, fought mightily, only to lose by the slimmest of margins.
“For a while I didn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, my school work suffered,” said Mosco, who lost 3-1 in overtime in the Class 1A 170-pound final against Robinson’s Luis Peguero.
“I went into that match knowing I was going to win,” said Mosco, who wrestled for Tampa Prep last season. “That’s how I felt. I couldn’t believe it when I lost.”
That was bad, no doubt.
But Underwood’s defeat in his 220-pound state final, 7-6, might have been the toughest of all. In the last second — perhaps in the last half-second — Underwood flipped his opponent for a takedown, which would have given him the points to seal the championship.
But the final horn sounded before Underwood’s opponent hit the mat. The ref waved it off.
Underwood was a runner-up.
And almost immediately, after the initial sting, he said he was more determined.
“I never wanted to have that feeling again,” said Underwood, who has jumped up to the heavyweight division this year and stands 24-0. “That match changed me.”
For Lewis, watching Underwood’s loss just about doubled his pain because less than an hour earlier, he lost his 2A state final match at 126 pounds, 8-3.
“Right then I think we all became more determined,” said Lewis, who is wrestling this year at 138 pounds and is 23-1. “It made us want it more. I want to be a state champion. We all want to be state champions.”
In about a month at the Lakeland Center, it could happen.
For all three.
It’s a mantra that Lewis, a sophomore, Mosco, a freshman (now at 195 with a 15-2 record), and Underwood, a senior, have reminded each other every day. It has boosted them. United them. Made them stronger.
“They tutor each other, they give each other rides to school, they work out together,” Jesuit coach Mike Scicchitano said. “I know the word ‘family’ gets overused sometimes in sports, but the fact is these guys are there for each other. It’s a special group.”
All three inspire confidence in the rest of the Tigers, and all three made a point to thank the rest of their teammates.
“It’s tough to win a state title without a great group of teammates,” Lewis said. “If any of us wins it’s a victory for the whole team. That’s how it feels.”
It has rubbed off.
Overall, Jesuit is having one of its best seasons in program history. The Tigers have won three tough tournaments and own a 21-4 dual-match record.
As for winning a state team title, it would be tough because juggernaut Brandon, a winner of 13 straight state team titles and 24 overall, is in Class 2A with the Tigers.
“That’s OK,” Lewis said. “I like the challenge of having Brandon in there with us. We all do.”
Scicchitano, meantime, keeps reminding them to keep perspective.
“The state tournament matches come down to a few points that could go either way,” Scicchitano said. “All I know is that we’re all giving it everything we have. If we do that then we can be proud.”
If one wins and the others don’t?
“I’ll be happy for whoever wins,” Lewis said. “But hopefully it will be all of us.
“That would be awesome.”