LANSING | Thornton Fractional South wrestler Blake Tisza had to battle more than opponents last year.
The then-sophomore had to battle the beginning of a growth spurt that was long in coming. As Tisza grew, he found it increasingly difficult to maintain his 112-pound frame late in the season.
It was the same challenge most younger wrestlers face as their bodies mature. His father, T.F. South wrestling coach Mike Tisza, said he went through the same experience between freshman and sophomore years, when his body developed and pushed him from a 112-pound wrestler into the 138-pound weight class.
"You just have to battle through it," said coach Tisza of the experience. "But in the off-season, you let your body do what's natural and grow and fill into your body."
This year, Blake has followed in his father's footsteps and made the jump in four weight classes to participate at 138 pounds. The sizable change has not effected the positive results for the junior.
Last season, Tisza went 34-8 and was a sectional runner-up at 113 pounds and therefore a state qualifier. He lost two of three matches at state — the first to eventual state champion Sebastian Pique of Hinsdale South, and the latter to eventual third-place finisher Zac Denny of Machesney Park.
"After last season was over, I just bulked up," Tisza said. "(Making weight) is still a challenge, but it is a little bit easier this year."
This season, with Pique and Denny both ranked wrestlers at 120 pounds, Tisza has flourished at the higher weight classification. He won tournaments at Rich East and Homewood-Flossmoor, as well as his second consecutive South Suburban conference title on Saturday. Ranked fifth in state, Tisza will take a 33-1 record to Saturday's Class 3A Marist Regional, where he could face 12th-ranked Mitch Cook of Sandburg. The top three wrestlers in each weight class at Marist will advance to the De La Salle Sectional tournament.
"There are new kids at this weight class, but I've known a lot of them from wrestling IKWF (Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation) and I practiced with a lot of them this summer," Tisza said. "I like the challenge. The only difference (between 112 and 138) is that you have to pick up the intensity level faster."
While Tisza said he would like to win crowns at the regional and sectional tournaments, his goal this year is to place at the state meet. Only four Rebels have ever placed at state: Erik Hanson (fifth-place at 152 pounds in 2006); Jason Besse (second at 145 in 2003); Bob Burke (fourth at 95 in 1965) and John Gregolunas (fourth at 95 in 1961).
"Everybody knows who he is," coach Tisza said of his son, who has been wrestling competitively since he was seven. "So he has a target on his chest. He just has to fight through it and make things happen."