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TAMPA — What a difference a year makes.
Hillsborough’s Demetrius Hill has gone from state challenger to legitimate contender thanks, in part, to a valuable lesson learned at Durant’s Cougar Invitational this season.
The lesson? Talent alone does not make a champion.
Throw in dogged determination to be the best and a solid conditioning regimen and now you’re talking.
“This year, more than anything, it’s his conditioning,” Hillsborough coach Mike Patrick said of Hill, a 195-pound senior who placed fifth at state last season. “The natural ability has always been there.”
Hill concurred, recalling how overconfidence foiled his bid for a title in the Cougar Invitational. Hill was pinned in 45 seconds of the final by Kissimmee Osceola’s Chris Pagan. That remains his lone loss of the season.
“I came into that (meet) being cocky,” he said matter-of-factly. “I let that cockiness get to me and that’s why I lost that match.”
According to both wrestler and coach — lesson learned.
“That loss, in all honesty, I think it is the best thing that could’ve happened,” Patrick said. “If you’re going to be a champion you hate to lose, and Demetrius Hill hates to lose.”
So much so that now Hill, who used to play recreational basketball to get his workouts outside of team practices, now gets in an extra 9 miles or so per week.
“Mostly, what’s stopped me in all my matches is conditioning,” Hill said. “This year I’ve conditioned 10 times harder than any year in the past.”
The payoff has come in the form of a 43-1 record that includes two pins and the title in the recent Hillsborough County Championships. Hill went 4-0 in that tourney, defending the county title with a decisive 11-4 decision over Riverview’s Connor Barrick.
Hill, three wins from last year’s personal best (44-8), is not shy about envisioning himself as a state contender, and his coach believes a state title is within reach.
“I can if I continue to work the way I am,” he said.
Added Patrick: “I think he can.”
While Hill owns a nearly flawless record, he also is widely known for one of the most impressive takedowns of the season.
During the Tony Ippolito Memorial tournament championship at Brandon, he lifted and slammed Jonathon Summitt so hard into the mat that the Brandon wrestler could not continue.
“That kid is going to see a neurologist (Thursday) to see if he’s cleared for the district tournament,” Patrick said of Summitt.
Hill has shared his newfound drive with teammates, inviting some to join him on his post-practice runs and taking on more of a leadership role.
“He’s doing everything right,” Patrick said. “He’s pushing himself. I’ve got no complaints.”
A standout outside linebacker on the Hillsborough football team, Hill thinks his best shot at a college scholarship is via wrestling.
“Football is my passion, but I’m going to focus more on wrestling to get a scholarship,” he said.
Class 3A-6 at Brandon
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Teams: Bloomingdale, Brandon, Durant, East Bay, Newsome, Plant, Plant City, Riverview, Tampa Bay Tech, Wiregrass Ranch
Class 3A-7 at Palm Harbor University
When: 10 a.m. Friday
Teams: Alonso, Chamberlain, Clearwater, Countryside, East Lake, Freedom, Gaither, PHU, Seminole, Steinbrenner, Wharton
Class 2A-9 at Blake
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Teams: Armwood, Blake, Hillsborough, Jesuit, King, Lennard, Sickles, Strawberry Crest
Class 2A-10 at Dixie Hollins
When: noon Friday
Teams: Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Jefferson, Largo, Leto, Osceola
Class A-9 at Robinson
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Teams: Berkeley Prep, Carrollwood Day, Middleton, Robinson, Spoto, Tampa Bay Christian, Tampa Prep, Wesley Chapel