For four years, Central Cambria's Tony Risaliti has had a crazy winter schedule, especially on Wednesday's - wrestling practice, swimming practice, Young Guns practice.
Soon, he'll begin track and field practice, but this past week he's had a chance to rest and gain a little bit of weight back after finishing fourth at 160 at the PIAA Class AA Championships.
"It's been a good time," Risaliti said. "It's nice and relaxed now. I feel accomplished. I feel like I made my mark in Central Cambria history. It's a really good feeling."
Risaliti was the most dangerous and consistent wrestlers in the area. He led the area in pins with 26, won his second District 6 title, finished second at the Southwestern Regional and placed at states for the second time.
It was quite a year for Risaliti, and because of that, he's been named the Altoona Mirror's Wrestler of the year for 2011-12. He's only the second Central Cambria wrestler to earn the award. The other Red Devil was the late Nate Morris, who shared it with Juniata Valley's Garrett Scott in 2002-03.
"It kind of caught me offguard," Risaliti said of learning he got the honor. "It means a lot to me. It's something I didn't expect. It's a great accomplishment, and it's something where I'll have that title forever. I'll always remember it."
Mirror wrestlers of the year
11-12Tony RisalitiCentral Cambria
10-11Evan LinkPenn Cambria
09-10 A.J. SchoppTyrone
08-09 A.J. SchoppTyrone
07-08Gary PfahlerChestnut Ridge
06-07Nathan LinkPenn Cambria
04-05Garrett ScottJuniata Valley
03-04Garrett ScottJuniata Valley
02-03Nate MorrisCentral Cambria
Garrett ScottJuniata Valley
95-96Jody StrittmatterCam. Heights
91-92Tony AlbertelliPenn Cambria
89-90Brian MurphyCambria Heights
85-86Dave YahnerCambria Heights
83-84Jeff HusickTussey Mountain
"I think it's outstanding," Central Cambria coach Bob Nikolishen said. "For so many years, Tony has been like a little pup chasing after the pack. It seemed like he just missed that opportunity that would totally fulfill as to why he's doing all this wrestling. Nothing really panned out for him. With this Wrestler of the Year honor, everything is coming together. It just seals up the envelope for him."
Risaliti went 37-5 as a senior, and three of those losses came to Forest Hills' friend and workout partner Cody Law. Risaliti did beat Law, 7-4, to win districts. Law lost in the state finals to Bentworth's Francis Mizia, 3-2. Law beat Mizia, 4-2, in the Southwest Regional semifinals.
"I wasn't too shocked because [Law] and Mizia wrestled a great match at regionals," Risaliti said, "and I knew it would be a close match. So, I knew it was going to be a brawl, and Mizia was coming back for blood."
Risaliti, of course, was hoping to wrestle Law in the state finals, but Central Columbia's Kurt Meske beat him, 11-7, in the quarterfinals. Risaliti would respond with an overtime pin, a technical fall and a decision in the consolations before losing to Meske again, 9-4, in the third-place bout.
"It's something you look back on and can say 'I could have done this, I could have done that,' " Risaliti said. "But I'm satisfied where I ended up."
When he would wrestle this season was a little bit in doubt because he had surgery on his ACL in July. But, after intense rehab, he came back and excelled.
"I cannot complain after coming back from that surgery," he said. "I didn't know how the season was going to turn out. Though I didn't get my goal, I still got high up in the placing rounds [at states]. At that level, you're not going to get any better competition."
Risaliti is hoping to continue his wrestling career at West Point. He has to pass a physical this week, and if he passes, he'll be sent to a prep school to get ready for the rigors of being a cadet.
"It's something where you have to be a special kind of a person, and I'm looking forward to testing myself," Risaliti said. "I've done a lot throughout high school. I've always been doing something, and this is just the next challenge for me. I believe that I can do it."
Risaliti will be following in the footsteps of former Red Devil Phil Steinberg, who also went the West Point route.
"He was just home, and I was talking to him," Risaliti said. "He's doing well up there and working hard. When I went up for my official visit, I got to talk to him and stay with him, and he showed me everything. he got me prepared for what I'm going to see when I'm there. It's a lot of work. They don't give you an easy way just because you're in a sport."
Risaliti finished his career with a 127-30 record and 83 pins, making him the school record holder in both. His 26 pins this season tied Greg Grimes' mark he set in 1993.
"Even as a freshman, he liked putting guys on their backs," Nikolishen said. "He could be in total control of the match, but if he didn't pin the guy, he was disappointed. That makes him a very dangerous weapon on the mat.
"Tony is irreplacable. It will be very tough to have a another kid like Tony. He's a National Honor Society president, the class president and student council president. When he leaves, he's going to be looked at as the president of our team. The mold was broken in so many different pieces when he was made."