Sports can be cruel and heartbreaking at times, but they can also be inspiring and rewarding.
The Stephen Decatur High School wrestling team’s state Class 3A championship earlier this month is one of those feel good stories that highlights the positives in amateur sports.
It was a memorable season for Decatur, rolling through most of their matches with ease on their way to an undefeated team season. For a while at the state championship at North Point High School, it looked like the Seahawks had met their match against top-seeded Linganore. In fact, it took some last-minute heroics by sophomore Micah Bourne in the final match to give Decatur a thrilling come-from-behind victory.
The excitement of the match nearly cost Decatur as a matter of fact. Bourne’s amazing pin of his opponent gave Decatur the two-point victory. However, an excited parent stormed the mat to celebrate the win, resulting in Decatur being penalized a point. Fortunately, that’s a memory everyone involved can chuckle about in the years ahead, as Decatur was able to win the state team title by one point.
There are a lot of layers to this state championship for Decatur, but each one is linked to hard work and dedication from these young athletes. Coach Todd Martinek, a long-time teacher at the school, took over the wrestling program seven years ago after Kevin Gilligan moved away from the area. Martinek served as an assistant under Gilligan. Both Gilligan and fellow assistant Doug Romano passed away unexpectedly in recent years. Martinek admitted to thinking a lot about the two men after winning the state championship this month.
“[Gilligan] built a great program out of nothing,” Martinek said. “We had great success from 2002 to 2011, but when he left Stephen Decatur, I did not want to see the program fall apart, so I took over as head coach. It was a lot of work filling Kevin’s shoes. He and Doug have passed away and I think about them often. I know they would be happy for the school and myself. … Coaching at the high school level is a thankless job. I do it for the love of the kids and competition. I’m so happy for these athletes.”
For Decatur, the season is not over, as 12 individual wrestlers will now compete for state titles in their own weight classes this weekend. These are coveted titles for the wrestlers and would clearly serve as the icing on a memorable season.
Perhaps most impressive about this entire season is the fact Decatur will only lose three wrestlers to graduation from this state-winning team. The future is bright, thanks to a tremendous work ethic, commitment to be the best and passion for the sport from the participants, parents and coaches.
For at least this year, they were just that. We congratulate them on a tremendous accomplishment.