CLAWSON — Clawson High’s Anthony Pizzo was at the individual wrestling state finals two years ago as a spectator, watching the Grand March as all the qualifiers walked on to The Palace of Auburn Hills floor.
He believed then, as a freshman, that someday it would be him wearing Clawson’s blue and gold circling the arena.
On Feb. 27, Pizzo gets his wish, as a 112-pound qualifier in Division 3.
“It’s going to be really sweet,” the junior said during a break from practice Feb. 20. “The Grand March is going to be really cool.”
Pizzo just missed on qualifying the past two seasons, coming one victory away at the regional level, but Pizzo and his coach are looking for more than just making the tournament.
“We’re going to do our best to get him to place,” coach Keil Jorgensen said, which takes a top-eight finish or two victories in the tournament. “If it happens or not, he’s there; it’s the state finals, and he’s competing.”
Being a competitor on the mat is one of Pizzo’s strengths, according to the coach.
“By far, his biggest strengths over his wrestling ability is his drive and heart,” Jorgensen said. “He’s one that he’s not afraid to go out there and compete with the best, even if that means losing. He doesn’t let it beat him; he learns every time. … He’s peaking right now, and he’s only going to get better.”
Pizzo, 49-6 overall, takes on Montrose Hill McCloy junior Arthur Payne (45-2) in the first round. Payne is ranked No. 2 in the state, according to www.michigangrappler.com. Pizzo is an honorable mention on the same list.
“Everyone at states is tough. You’re there for a reason. To wrestle a kid like Arthur Payne in the first round, basics will keep you in the match,” Jorgensen said. “You have to be aware of the clock, positioning on the mat, and you have to keep moving your feet.
“Fight every inch for the mat and just go from there. … Against quality opponents, very rarely will those fancy moves work. Solid basics and guts are the biggest things.”
Those “biggest things” also happens to be where Pizzo excels.
“You have to wrestle hard, be aggressive and give everything you have every match,” Pizzo said.