Lew-Port senior Kyle Cerminara was at a wrestling meet in Binghamton last summer, browsing through a binder of photos at a souvenir stand when suddenly he stopped flipping the pages.
The picture is of a wrestler raising his hands in the air, basking in the approval of a state championship crowd at a packed Onondaga War Memorial in Syracuse.
On the other side is the wrestler who lost the match. He is on his knees, pounding the mat with his fist. Cerminara recognized the kid pounding the mat. It was him.
Cerminara bought the picture, brought it home, and pinned it to his basement wall. It's right next to his weight set so he can see it while he works out. It's also right above his list of goals for this season. One of the last ones on the list: become a state champion.
This weekend, Cerminara gets his chance to have that picture re-shot.
"That picture must have been taken right after I lost," said Cerminara, a 189-pounder who is one of 15 Section VI champions headed to Syracuse for the state championships this weekend. "He's got his hands up in the air and I'm on my hands and knees.
"Sometimes I'll just look at it and think: I don't want that to happen again. I don't even want to be in a close match again. I don't want to be taken down again."
And he hasn't. Astonishingly, Cerminara has been taken down just once in the last two seasons -- and that was in that 2000 state semifinal loss to Matt Daddino of Franklin Square. Daddino won the 2-2 bout in overtime on a criteria decision when Cerminara couldn't escape the grasp of Daddino, who now is the starter at 189 for Hofstra University.
This year, Cerminara is 35-0 and has been named the most outstanding wrestler at the Webster Tournament, the Niagara Frontier Wrestling Officials Association Tournament, the Class AAA meet and the Section VI Championships. He will attend UB on a full scholarship.
Cerminara has been named one of the nation's top high school seniors by Wrestling USA magazine and went 6-0 at the national dual meet tournament in Michigan last summer. He won Empire State Games gold, and yes, he won the state freestyle championship in Binghamton, which is where he bought the picture.
The way things are going, another of those goals under the picture has a good chance of developing: national champion. State champions advance to the National High School Senior Championships on April 6-8 in Newark, Del.
At the sectionals, Cerminara put on a clinic. Within the opening minute, he had taken down Lockport's Bryan Petti four times. Cerminara continued to let Petti escape, only to take him down again. And again. It was 12-5 after the first period and 24-10 after the second. Four seconds into the third, he scored an escape to earn a 25-10 technical fall.
"What I see in Kyle is someone who has learned how to wrestle -- some guys will just maul you to death or overpower you, but Kyle can not only overpower you he can out-wrestle you with great technique," said Lancaster coach Dennis Beck, who was part of the New York State team at the national duals. "He was a dominating figure at that event."
Cerminara started wrestling in the sixth grade. "I wrestled in some kids tournaments and just basically fell in love with it," said Cerminara, who credits former Lew-Port and current Medina coach Eric Gross for "shaping everything that I do."
"I took my beatings in seventh grade, but I always wanted to be the best. I always wanted to be a state champion."
Preliminaries begin Friday at 3 p.m. Saturday's lineup has semifinals at 10 a.m., consolation finals at 6 p.m. followed by championship bouts at 7:30.