Lockport wrestler Taylor reflects on road to states
He was a 135-pound eighth grader who more or less got his butt whooped day in and day out.
But Taylor can now look back on those days with pride, and a smile, because he knows every battle in the practice room set him on the path to Albany.
“If (coach Joe) Scapelliti didn’t put me on the varsity lineup, I don’t think I’d be where I am today because I just got the living snot beat out of me,” Taylor said with a grin.
Taylor, a Lockport High School junior, is poised to write his name in Lions’ wrestling history this weekend as he competes in the NYSPHSAA state championships at the Times-Union Center in Albany.
With a state title within reach, Taylor couldn’t help but reflect on that first season of varsity.
“I wasn’t even thinking about states at that time,” Taylor said. “I was just hanging in there at 135 pounds.”
Taylor, who wrestles at 220, secured his place at states when he pinned Jevon Flynn of Niagara Falls to capture the Section VI large school title at the finals that were held at UB on Feb.10.
Taylor had beaten Flynn at the Class finals just seven days earlier.
But while conventional thinking would say beating Flynn in the “AA” finals gave Taylor the mental edge at sectionals, Taylor said if anything the rematch actually put more pressure on him.
“That was probably the most nerve-wracking match because I had everything to lose. I was the one who’s supposed to win,” Taylor explained. “It’s different if you’re the one who’s supposed to win. I couldn’t make any mistakes. I was just thinking what I was going to do. I wasn’t thinking what he was going to do.”
A thinking man’s grappler, Taylor isn’t like most heavyweights. While most of his peers tend to concentrate on mastering two or three key moves that can highlight their raw power, Taylor knows he can’t expect to find success on brute force alone.
So he’s worked hard to become a fundamentally sound wrestler.
While Taylor is well-rounded, his strength is still a big weapon and a main reason why he was able to bull his way to a 39-2 record this year. Taylor was so good during the regular season, he was able to win decisively in the first few minutes of virtually every match.
Scapelliti said now the mission is to up Taylor’s conditioning to get him ready physically and mentally to go six minutes or longer at states.
“Early in the week last week it was hard,” Scapelliti said. “He was pushed very hard both physically and mentally it was tough for him. But he said to me today (Feb.16) at practice, I feel a lot better. I feel like I’m more prepared.
“By pushing him physically it’s also going to prepare him mentally and I think he’s starting to get to the place where he needs to be both mentally and physically,” he added.
Believing that it’s not just about getting to states, it’s also about winning, Taylor is on a mission to make his first trip to the competition a memorable one.
“When I get there my focus is (going to be) on the moment,” he said. “I won’t be thinking about matches that I lost in the past. I’m not going to be thinking about matches in the next round, I’m thinking about getting my hand raised right then and there.”