T.F. South wrestlers Tyrone Johnson and Jake Tisza have taken very different paths to this weekend's 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional.
The 138-pound Tisza has been wrestling since the age 5. Johnson, a 182-pound wrestler for the Rebels, has been on the mat for just two seasons.
But the two wrestlers will head into Saturday's sectional with the same goal: a state championship berth. T.F. South coach Mike Tisza, Jake's father, has played a major role in the development of both wrestlers.
"That sectional is going to be tough," Mike Tisza said. "You better come ready to wrestle. I'd rather come out of a sectional like that because you know darn well when you get down to state you're in a great opportunity to place."
Tisza, a sophomore, is 29-8 on the season and finished third at last Saturday's 3A Shepard Regional.
"It's all about heart and if you want it," Tisza said. "I'm just going to keep working and keep at it. I'm just looking to wrestle 100 percent and come out ready to go."
Jake's father knows that his son has all the wrestling knowledge he needs. He now needs to just keep working and battling every second in a match.
"Jake's been wrestling since he was five years old," Mike Tisza said. "He knows what he needs to do. It's a different scenario from Tyrone. Jake just needs to be more aggressive and go after it. Things aren't going to happen by itself. You have to make it happen."
Tisza and Johnson will look for a top three finish on Saturday to punch their ticket to the state finals in Champaign.
"Nothing matters until state," Tisza said. "If I make it to state, it's real, and it counts. That's what everyone is going to remember you for."
Johnson is a junior and is 31-7 on the year. Johnson was stopped by Marist's Alex Benoit in the championship match at the Shepard Regional, but Johnson will look to bounce back this weekend at Hinsdale Central.
"It makes me rethink what I have to do to never let something like that happen again," Johnson said of his loss to Benoit. "I need to let the loss leave my mind so I can focus on the upcoming matches."
Johnson credits hard work and his coaches for getting him to where he is now in such a short time.
"For me to do this well and be where I'm at right now it speaks to how hard I've been working to get to this point," Johnson said. "The coaching has really helped me. They make sure that we're prepared to be in the position that we are."
Mike Tisza said he has seen Johnson develop into a solid wrestler despite his lack of experience on the mat, and knows that Johnson also has room to improve. Johnson has heeded his coach's advice and is learning to rely on his wrestling skills instead of brute force to win his matches.
"From last year to this year I think the number one thing I improved on is my technique," Johnson said. "Last year, I relied a lot on my strength. This year, I've become more well-rounded."