Three local middle-schoolers might make wrestling look easy, but years of hard work led to the undefeated seasons for Brandon Bautista, Chris Esque and Zeke Marcozzi.
The team captains are eighth-graders at Selbyville Middle School, where each completed the 2012-2013 wrestling season with a 13-0 record, undefeated in the regular season and four tournament rounds.
“When kids are as good as they are, they make it look easy,” said head SMS coach Joe Bellistri. “They worked hard all the time and had fun.”
Esque said they “just went out there and tried [their] hardest,” although they were very confident going into the season.
While they had a blast at SMS, for two of the undefeated wrestlers, their skill ultimately came from participating in school and club teams for several years. Marcozzi has wrestled for eight years and Esque for four years. But Bautista was a newcomer to the sport just two years ago.
“In sixth grade, I sucked,” Baustista admitted. “I just wanted to get better.”
Bellistri said good wrestlers need other strong athletes to push them in practice, so the boys had a very “symbiotic” relationship, to help each other improve.
In fact, they all got better. This year at SMS, Marcozzi and Esque said, they were never scored upon, and Bautista only lost a few points. Just as important, at the finals they all beat Smyrna — a powerhouse opponent.
Despite their Henlopen Conference success, Marcozzi said the hardest part of wrestling is “going out and getting pinned, and it happens a lot.”
He recalled getting pinned in 45 seconds at a regional match against Texas.
Two-a-day practices also wore down the athletes. After SMS practice, they drove north for regional team practice before coming home to a backpack of homework. Weekends have been dedicated to out-of-state tournaments.
Plus — while losing weight is common for wrestlers — it certainly is not a perk for three teenagers.
“A lot of people don’t understand wrestling,” Bellistri said of the one-on-one battles of character and training that are tested so publicly. “In running, you just get tired. In wrestling, you’re tired and you’ve got someone beating on you. … It’s exhausting physically, and it’s mental, too.”
Between other school sports and recreational leagues, the three wrestlers are busy year-round. As the boys prepare for high-school wrestling, they offered advice to the future SMS team: “Work hard,” said Esque. “Work harder than you did this year. Don’t stop.”
Marcozzi emphasized that one practice a day is not always enough, but they never stopped, because it was such fun.
“Thanks, Mr. Bellistri, for the best year,” said Marcozzi.
“The best three years,” said Bautista.
Bellistri said the teammates also inspired their coach.
“It was fun,” Bellistri said.