By DEREK LARIVIERE
Published December 10, 2006
[Times photo: Edmund D. Fountain]
Schuyler Swanton, a breakout star as a sophomore, beats Pasco's Mike Cowell in last season's Springstead Brijbag tournament.
It is not difficult to see who has the highest expectations attached to him this season. Only one wrestler in Hernando County is an All-American. Only one wrestler in Springstead's history is an All-American. Only one returning wrestler from last season finished second in the state in his weight class. Schuyler Swanton is the only one.
It remains to be seen how Swanton will react to such expectations in his junior season. This is the first time he really has had to deal with being at the forefront in any situation.
Growing up, he looked up to his older brother, two-time state champion and former Springstead wrestler Dustin Swanton. He remained in the background, honing his craft on the mat with good work ethic and dedication.
"Schuyler is a fantastic product of hard work," Springstead coach Eric Swensen said. "Most were surprised by what he did last season, but if you saw him in the wrestling room every day, you'd know where it all came from."
Last season, his first at the varsity level, Swanton was overlooked early. Springstead was led by a state title hopeful in transfer Seth Metz, and Swanton and the rest of the Eagles were able to fly under the radar.
Even with all that cover, it did not take long for some to take notice of the lightweight star. Swanton opened eyes with his performance at last season's Kiwanis Tournament at Hernando High, where he made the finals. After that, he improved by leaps and bounds as tournaments came and went.
By the time the Class 2A regionals at Lake Gibson rolled around, his confidence was at an all-time high. He gave a strong performance, finishing second only to Brandon's Eric Grajales, a fellow All-American.
At the state meet at the Lakeland Center, Swanton worked his way through the field and into the finals again with relative ease. And again, he ran into Grajales and finished second overall.
This season, Grajales has moved up a weight class to 112 pounds, and with Swanton looking to dominate at 103, this will be his best opportunity for state gold.
"You can never assume anything," said Swanton, 16. "Grajales is a great wrestler, and not having him to deal with sure is a positive thing, but that's the thing about wrestling. You never know what freshman or sophomore could come out of nowhere and surprise you."
The situation Swanton spoke of is exactly what happened with him last season. He came out of nowhere and finished with a 46-5 record.
With his intention to move up a couple of weight classes to prepare for college next season, he knows expectations are high for him this year. He is the best chance for the first state champion under Swensen and the 10th state title winner in the program's history.
All eyes will be on Swanton and the Eagles. How will the first All-American in Springstead's storied wrestling history perform with two seasons left? Swanton was as humble and low-key as always.
"We have a great team this year," Swanton said. "All I can do is work hard and give 100 percent every time I go out there."
[Last modified December 10, 2006, 09:35:28]
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