When Kent Costell was in eighth grade, he made a wise choice.
He decided that he didn't want to play a sport, such as football, where he would have to look up to the opposition. Instead, he stuck with his favorite sport, wrestling, which he could look down and see his competition on their backs.
For the past three years, the move has paid off. This weekend at the state wrestling tournament in Lakeland, Costell will wrap up his varsity wrestling career for Countryside High School.
And what a career it has been.
In his sophomore, junior and senior years combined, Costell, who wrestles at 119 pounds, has more than 120 career victories - 40 or more wins each season. He also has a third-place state medal, a fourth-place state medal and enough trophies, awards and ribbons to fill a coffee table.
The big prize - a state championship.
"I want to win . . . really bad," he said.
Costell got interested in wrestling when he was 7. His father, Dan, was a high school wrestler in Michigan and has been a strong influence on his son. The influence grew when Kent had chances to watch his father coach.
Costell's favorite move is called a front headlock. He uses it a lot because it puts him in control. Once in place, the opposition is immobile.
"They are not going to get a chance to score on you," Costell said. "I like to get up by some points and then get the pin if it's there."
During his sophomore year, Costell earned a first-place finish at districts and a second-place finish at the regional tournament, where his only loss was to the wrestler who won the state title.
His junior year, Costell did a little better. He won at the district and regional tournaments and was undefeated heading into the state semifinals. He settled for third.
Heading into the state tournament this season, Costell (40-1) is proud of his career achievements, but now it's time for a strong finish.
"He's outshined me in the sport," said his dad, who will be in Lakeland along with his wife, Melissa, and daughter Kylah. "It's always good when the kids do better than you did. When he started wrestling, he was real young. It helped build confidence in himself. He's taken it to the next level."
The elder Costell was asked if there is anything he can do to further motivate his son for his final trip to the state tournament.
"It should be his own inspiration," he said. "I'd be happy with anything."
Costell has had different head coaches and assistant coaches during his career as a Cougar. First-year varsity coach Greg Chapman said he has been involved in wrestling for a long time and knows what it takes on and off the mat to win a state title. He thinks Costell has those qualities. The region tournament was a good test.
"This is a very, very good regional," Chapman said. "Probably one of the toughest regionals in the state. I'd make a prediction that probably the kids who qualify here will (place) at states.
"I think Kent has a really good chance of winning. He knows what he's doing. He's extremely coachable. He will listen, but we don't have to give him a lot of advice. The biggest advice I can give any kid is don't leave anything on the mat. It's something you'll remember the rest of his life."
Costell is a co-captain this season. He will attend the state tournament along with junior teammate Brandon Lopez, who wrestles at 130 pounds.
The state tournament takes place today, Friday and Saturday.