LANSING | Blake Tisza knows this weekend will be tough, but the T.F. South sophomore has never backed down from a challenge.
"I am really excited," Tisza said. "It's something I worked for all year."
Tisza (33-6) will take on Hinsdale South's Sebastian Pique (40-1) in a first-round match this morning at the Class 3A state meet at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall.
Tisza is among seven local wrestlers who will compete in Class 3A. No locals qualified in either Class 1A or 2A.
Getting to the state meet is not enough for Tisza.
"I want to place," he said. "I know I will have to wrestle my best and go hard, but that is my goal."
To place, Tisza would have to finish in the top six.
It is isn't the first time he has wrestled in a state tournament but the first time at the high school level. He is a five-time Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation state qualifier. He said he can draw from that experience.
"I know this is a bigger one (stage), but I know what it is like, and I hope to draw from my experience," Tisza said. "I think that helps a lot, but you still have to go hard and wrestle well."
Tisza went to the J Robinson Intensive Wrestling Camp this summer with teammates Dion Crowder and Emanuel Brucelas. The camp, run by Minnesota coach J Robinson, promises to change one's life.
"It taught me how to be focused and to keep going even when you think you are beat," Tisza said. "When you get down in a match, or are tired, you have to find that something to keep going and finish."
The other motivation came from not making it out of regionals last year.
"I just worked hard on strength, technique and used what I learned over the summer," Tisza said. "I think I did improve as the year went on."
South coach Mike Tisza, Blake's dad, said he saw improvement in his entire team.
"I am proud of everyone, because they worked to get better, and we set goals," the elder Tisza said. "We want them to have a goal every day at practice, and that is how you get better."