LANSING | A year ago Joe Young would never have dreamed of a trip to the state wrestling finals.
A year ago he didn't wrestle.
Young's teammate, Blake Tisza, remembers just missing a chance to place in the top six in Class 3A.
The T.F. South juniors are both going to the Class 3A state meet which begins Thursday at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall. They are both part of the program's history as this is the first time two Rebels have qualified for the state meet.
"It is kind of special and we just want to do well," Young said. "I think it is great and we want to represent our school and community. It will be a thrill, but I also know I am down there to wrestle."
Tisza is also excited and knows the feeling of being a first-time participant as he was one last year.
"I was in a little awe," Tisza said. "I think it is great going to the state meet, but I also want to go out there, wrestle hard and place."
Tisza is at 138 pounds and Young is at 182.
T.F. South coach Mike Tisza told both to keep their focus as with the new three-day format, wrestlers only compete once on Thursday.
"Go hard for six minutes and if you win, you have a full day to rest and get ready for your next match," Tisza said of his advice for the pair. "You also want to go down there and make it an experience, because you are not guaranteed anything next year, so go all out and have fun. Win some matches and do yourself and the school proud. I know I am proud of you."
Tisza said it is a great experience.
"I never got to experience as a wrestler (at Marian Catholic), but I am glad my son can," he said. "My dad (Ernie) experienced at CVS (Chicago Vocational) in the 1950s. I can experience it as a coach, but these two, they can be a part of it as wrestlers."
His son agrees that it is a good time, but there is a lot of work.
"I just want to go all out — 100 percent all three days," Tisza said. "I think from last year, you gain experience and that will help, but there are no easy matches down there.
"I like that if you win on Friday, you just have the one match that day. You have to win that first one though."
Young said his road will not be easy, but he has had to work all year to get himself in the position he is in.
"I know how important it is to win that first match," Young said. "State is different because everybody there is good. There are no easy matches and you better be ready."