At this time last year, College Park High wrestler Brian Sergi was already 21/2 months into his offseason training program.
He gave himself a one-week break after the conclusion of the 2011 state championships, where he came down with the flu and was eliminated during the first day of competition. Then he began to prepare for his senior year, one he felt would be critical to his future.
So he trained -- day after day after day -- never taking his eyes off the prize.
"Sometimes it was tough," Sergi said. "But whenever it was tough, I'd just think about what I was doing this for. To win state, to get my education paid for -- or at least most of it paid for. I wanted to use that time to get a head start and take advantage of my opportunity."
That's exactly what happened. In a magical senior year, Sergi won the state championship at 138 pounds, received his share of scholarship offers and will wrestle at Appalachian State next season. He etched his name alongside Casey Strand as the only two College Park wrestlers to win a state championship.
Sergi now caps his high school career with another title -- Bay Area News Group East Bay Male Athlete of the Year.
"We keep all our newspaper articles and keep them on our wall," inside the wrestling team's workout room, College Park coach Jim Keck said. "It's neat for kids to read about the history, and now Brian is a big part of that. He should serve as an inspiration to other
Sergi had an impressive junior season in 2011, winning the North Coast Section title at 130 pounds. He had an eye on the state title last year, but his illness that weekend contributed to a 2-2 record at the state championships. He did not place in the top eight.
Perhaps that's why Sergi went slightly unnoticed in the first two months of the 2011-12 wrestling season, as three other East Bay wrestlers who did finish in the top eight at the 2011 state championships were also returning for their senior seasons.
But Sergi quietly went about his business, and the work he did in the spring and summer started to pay off.
In early February, Sergi won the Mission San Jose Invitational -- the unofficial start to the wrestling campaign's postseason -- to kick off a monthlong stretch that saw him tested only a handful of times. After capturing the Diablo Valley Athletic League title, Sergi went on to the NCS meet where he won two matches by pinfall, two by technical fall and the final by major decision.
Sergi went into the state meet ranked third in the state by The California Wrestler at 138 pounds. Undeterred, Sergi won his first three matches in convincing fashion to set up a semifinal match against Natrelle Demison of Bakersfield, who was ranked No. 2 and who eliminated Sergi in the 2011 state tournament. The match went into overtime, where Sergi scored first in a 7-4 "sudden victory" to advance to the championship.
Then, on an elevated stage in front of several thousand people at Rabobank Arena, Sergi ended his high school wrestling career in grand style. With the match tied 3-3 in the third period, Sergi scored a point on Shayne Tucker, ranked No. 1, with 39 seconds to go and maintained the lead to win the state championship. Tucker had beaten Sergi 7-2 at the prestigious Doc Buchanan Invitational in Clovis.
Perhaps some of the wrestlers Sergi faced at the state meet prepared just as hard as he did for this season. But it's doubtful that anyone outworked him.
"If you have something that you believe can be an avenue to success," Sergi said, "why not do everything you can to make it happen?"