ST. JOHNS – Trent Lashuay felt enormous angst when he found himself under the bright lights of last year’s 135-pound individual state title bout. And when he left, the anxiety and uneasiness was replaced by heartbreak.
Lashuay, now a senior 140-pound wrestler at St. Johns High School, was within a fingertip’s reach of his dream scenario. After placing seventh as both a freshman and sophomore, Lashuay was on the brink of breaking through.
It still doesn’t sit well with him.
“It’s kind of a dream when you’re there, but, unfortunately, it ended like a bad dream for me,” said Lashuay, who lost by decision, 5-2, to Goodrich’s Nathan Ellis after giving up four early points in the opening period of the state title match. “I think about it all the time. I think about finding the way that’ll help me win this year.”
Lashuay is back to avenge his defeat, and, in the process, help his program maintain the masterly consistency it’s had for the past eight years.
“Knowing how close I was, the experience of being in the state finals, you get sick before,” Lashuay said. “You do not feel good because of the pressure. The moment feels too real when it actually comes. You work toward it your whole life.
“This year, if I make it to the state finals, which I plan on doing, having that experience and nerves already will provide less pressure and allow me to focus on wrestling and winning.”
The St. Johns wrestling program has done a lot of winning since 2009. The Redwings captured four consecutive Division 2 team state titles from 2010-13 and finished as runners-up in 2014 and 2016. Aside from last season, when Iowa State freshman Ian Parker was the school’s only state champion, St. Johns has had at least two individual state title holders every year since 2009.
Lashuay looks to be the program’s frontrunner to carry on the eight-year streak, but it’s not the center of the attention in the Redwings’ wrestling room.
“You don’t focus on the streak and what happened before you, you just focus on making the best of yourself and your team,” Lashuay said. “If you work hard and make sure your team is doing well, then you’ll become a better wrestler individually. That’s what we really focus on, helping each other get better, and in the end you’ll be better because of it.”
Fifth-year coach Derek Phillips said his team used to put big picture goals in the forefront. Working toward the goal of winning a state championship, both as a team and individually, used to be the day-to-day approach. But after St. Johns missed out on a trip to the state tournament by losing to Eaton Rapids in the regional finals two seasons ago, a misstep that he said was an “eye-opening experience,” Phillips said the program has shifted its attention to smaller goals in hopes of nailing the big target in the end.
Nonetheless, Phillips has long noticed Lashuay’s eagerness to get another crack at a state title.
“Trent is laser focused on being an individual state champion, and he’s doing everything he can because he knows that it’s within his reach,” Phillips said. “But, for the most part, we’re just trying to have fun and get better. And when you do those two things, good things will happen.”
This season, Lashuay, who is the state’s No. 2 ranked wrestler in his weight class, according to michigangrappler.com, has put an emphasis on the basics. He’s been teaching younger athletes the sport’s fundamentals in his spare time. He feels it’s the best way to sharpen his sword.
“St. Johns, we practice really hard, and you have to find which way works best for you, which way you think you’re going go,” Lashuay said. “I think teaching is the best way to help yourself learn in the end. …Teaching is one of the more effective ways to learn for me.”
Lashuay missed about three weeks this season after getting hit with a staph infection (MRSA) early in December. He believes the time off was good for him. It allowed him to miss the sport and forced him to think consistently about his goals.
Lashuay has two losses this season and he doesn’t know how many wins. He’ll worry about that when the time comes.
“I don’t focus on the numbers right now,” he said. “Once districts start, that’s when everything matters.
“That missed time, (I) want to make up for it.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.