With three first-period pins a little over a week ago at the Section 4 Wrestling Championships, Reggie Williams joined the short list of four-time Section 4 champions.
The Johnson City senior, however, was not in a celebratory mood in the aftermath of his accomplishment.
“It doesn’t mean anything to win a fourth Section 4 title,” Williams said. “It’s time to finish what I’ve started, and that’s to win a state title.
“Six years of work, it’s come down to this. My goal, my focus is to win a state title.”
Yes, it’s championship or bust for Williams when he joins 39 other Section 4 wrestlers at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships this weekend in Albany.
Especially after what transpired last year, when what was expected to be a coronation for Williams turned into a humbling experience.
Unbeaten and untested heading into the state tournament, Williams was the top seed in the Division I 195 weight class, the same weight where a year earlier as a sophomore he had reached the state final, losing to Shenendehowa’s Tony Fusco, 11-3.
His state-title bid never truly materialized, though, as he was dominated in a stunning 14-4 quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Dan Choi of Syosset. Williams lost again in the wrestlebacks, failing to finish in the top six.
“Every time I wrestle, and it’s recorded, I go back and look at my mistakes,” Williams said. “Last year, it was just a mental breakdown with me. I was perfectly capable of winning that quarterfinal match.”
Williams might benefit from tempered expectations — at least outside of Johnson City circles — this time around heading into the state tournament.
Unlike last year, Williams is not the favorite in the Division I 195 weight class. That would be Shenendehowa’s Levi Ashley, last year’s runner-up who is the top seed at Division I 195. The senior is 36-0 this season, including a pair of decisive victories against Williams, a 10-5 decision at the Spencerport Tournament on Dec. 28 and a 9-4 win at the Eastern States Classic on Jan. 10.
Those are Williams’ only two losses this season in 32 matches.
“I’m the underdog, I’m not supposed to win the tournament,” said Williams, who is the second seed. “It’s not expected of me. But I’ve been busting my behind ever since the end of Sectionals, turning up the pace even harder. I’m doing everything I can to get ready mentally and physically.”
Johnson City coach Jordan Glenn believes Williams is more than capable of winning a state title. He also knows that before Williams can think of a possible third meeting with Ashley, he needs to take care of business beforehand.
“I think last year was a prime example,” Glenn said. “I think what happened was, going in undefeated, feeling like he was on top of the world, he might have been (looking ahead).
“We’ve stressed to Reggie, look what happened last year, and just focus on one point, one move at a time. He’s done the work, so he just needs to stay focused and the next match will come when it comes.”