Brian Sergi is College Park’s second state wrestling champion because he believed he could be.
By BILL KOLB | Contributor
Brian Sergi can be described in a multitude of ways.
Intense. Focused. Dedicated. Smiling. Happy. Friendly. Tough.
On Saturday evening inside Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena, he added one more modifier to his name.
Sergi, an 18-year-old senior at College Park High, breezed into the 138-pound championship match at the California Interscholastic Federation championship tournament without too much difficulty, in a tough weight class, in one of the 4-5 toughest state wrestling tournaments in the country.
Once there, he squared off against top-ranked Shayne Tucker (Bella Vista-Sacramento), who had beaten Sergi fairly soundly earlier in the season at the Doc Buchanan Invitational in Clovis. His revenge was made all the sweeter by the fact that it came on the brightest stage the state has to offer.
“It’s definitely an awesome feeling, beating a guy I already lost to, too,” Sergi said just moments after his crowning achievement. “I had a different mindset, a different strategy coming in. And I knew I was going to win. It went great. I just wrestled a tough, smart match, and it resulted in a win.”
Sergi — never ranked higher than No. 3 in the state all season by thecaliforniawrestler.com — was clearly the more aggressive wrestler in the match, forcing the issue to the point of giving up two points on a reversal when he got too high on Tucker, a junior who placed fourth in the state at 130s in 2011. Despite that minor blip, Sergi looked about as dominant as a wrestler can in a 4-3 decision. Tucker did not score an offensive point.
“After he got that first reversal, I got away right away and came back and kept wrestling,” Sergi said. “I ended up getting the takedown I needed and held on for the win.”
Such is Sergi’s laser-like focus that, despite being up just 4-2 after a third-period takedown, he already knew that there was no way Tucker was going to reverse their respective fates.
“It was real to me before the match was even over,” Sergi said. “Once I got that last takedown and I was up two, I knew I was going to win. I knew he wouldn’t score one me.”
That’s not cockiness, incidentally. That’s confidence.
“I don’t think he expected (to win state), exactly,” College Park coach Jim Keck said. “He came in confident, not cocky, and he felt he could win every match, I think. Each match he went into, he said, ‘I’m going to win.’ But he wasn’t saying that a month before state. He was focused on each match. He wrestled smart, intelligent, confident matches.”
College Park assistant coach Leroy Rivers knew after Sergi claimed his third straight North Coast Section championship on Feb. 25 at Newark Memorial that the Falcon was going to take flight at state.
“He’s clicking,” Rivers said. “It’s a good time to be clicking. … He’s a hard worker, a good student. He has great technique, good positioning and he moves his body well. … He’s at that point right now where he’s peaking. He looks different from at Doc Buchanan. That (loss to Tucker) was the best thing for him. He lost a match he should have won, and it re-focused him.”
Sergi’s health definitely was a factor in this year’s event. In 2011, after dominating the NCS field at 130, Sergi got the flu.
To say that it impacted his state performance understates the case. He went 1-2, dropping a 7-4 decision to Bakersfield’s Natrelle Demison to drop out of the consolation brackets. Demison went on to place third, and entered this year’s tournament ranked No. 2 in the state at 138. Sergi avenged that loss, too, bouncing Demison 7-4 in the semifinals.
“Brian, he was ON this weekend,” Keck said. “Tucker beat him earlier this year, and the kid he beat in the semis (Demison) knocked him out of state last year. (Sergi) is a smiling, happy guy, always talking to guys in the back room, so you might not know it to look at him, but he’s tough.
“This weekend he was just relaxed and focused. He never looked worried, never looked overly anxious. He just had a good time. And after having a tough state meet last year, this was big for him.”
The individual championship is just the second in school history. Sergi’s name will join local legend Casey Strand in the rafters at the College Park gym. Strand won titles at 171 in 1993 and at 189 in 1994 after placing second at 160 in 1992.
“We’ve finally got somebody to join Casey Strand up on the wall,” Keck said. “It’s a big deal for (Sergi), and it’s exciting for me.”
The future remains uncertain for Sergi, who has drawn some mild interest from college coaches this season. Safe to say the interest level just went up a notch or two.
“The kid works hard,” Keck said of the first of his students to win a state title. “He’s hoping to get into and play for a college. You would hope this would open some doors for him. … He’s been wrestling a long time, and he does lots of other things to make himself better: Judo, jiu-jitsu, stick-fighting, mixed martial arts. It all helps him. It’s just nice for him to culminate his high school wrestling career like this.”
Sergi, ever focused on the task at hand, hasn’t had time to worry about the repercussions of his dominance just yet.
“I definitely want to wrestle in college,” Sergi said. “I don’t know where yet. I knew I could win this, and that a lot of doors would open up.”
He may have just kicked some down.
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