John Lane lost to the cruelest of opponents at last year's high school wrestling state championship tournament: the weight scale. The Springstead High standout took a 27-1 record to the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg where a season's worth of work began to unravel.
In the hours before weigh-in deadline, Lane ran miles and miles trying to shed pounds. But because of cool temperatures, he said, it was hard to break a sweat. That combined with the fact he was slowed by an illness made losing enough weight nearly impossible for Lane.
When at weigh-in deadline he tipped the scales half a pound heavier than allowed for the 130-pound class, Lane's quest for a state championship ended and his role as a spectator at the 3A tournament began.
"I've tried to forget about the past," Lane said. "This year, I'm going to make weight for sure and give it all I've got.
"This year I'm staying low and training hard. I dream of what I'm going to do at state, dream of every move I'm going to make."
As a sophomore, he won championships at the Gulf Coast Conference Invitational and Class 3A, District 7 tournaments. Lane did not lose his first match last season until the 3A-Region II tournament, where he wrestled back through the consolation bracket to finish third.
Now a junior, Lane has taken care of business both on the mat and on the scale.
"He was pretty frustrated because of not making weight last year," Springstead coach Bob Levija said. "This year he's made weight every time out."
Qualified for the 3A state tourney that begins Friday in West Palm Beach, he is 29-1 and ranked second in the 135-pound weight class, according to a Florida Athletic Coaches Association poll. The lone loss came when he jumped up a weight class to 140 and challenged state qualifier Doug Jensen of Citrus.
Helping Springstead go 15-0 for the second straight dual season, Lane also claimed individual titles while the Eagles won runaway team championships at the Brooksville Kiwanis and Gulf Coast Conference invitationals, the 3A-District 7 tournament and last weekend's 3A-Region II meet.
Lane breezed through the 135-pound bracket at the 3A-7 tourney, pinning Chris Lewis of Citrus in the quarterfinals, beating Mike Fink of Zephyrhills 20-4 in the semifinals and knocking off rival Dell Holland of Hernando High 11-4 for the title.
He had a much tougher draw at the regional, fighting past David Phillips of Haines City 6-5 in the quarterfinals and earning a 1-0 decision over 3A-District 5 champion Brad Hamilton of Starke-Bradford in the semis. In the finals, Lane drew two-time 3A-District 8 champ Donald Crosser of Tampa Robinson and emerged an 11-6 winner.
Lane also has changed his eating habits in preparation for the state tourney, eating more fruits and salad than last year. And he is in a higher weight class this year, bumping up to the more natural 135 division.
"I haven't really grown any," he said, "so making weight hasn't been a problem."