Plainview-Elgin-Millville wrestler sticks it out
Plainview-Elgin-Millville wrestling coach Mike Matiash has had a great deal of success with farm kids.
That farm-kid mentality often translates into a strong work ethic, mental toughness and an unwillingness to give up even under copious amounts of adversity.
Matiash has witnessed all of those qualities from his latest standout farm kid, 220-pound senior Tyler Petit.
And make no mistake, it would have been easy for Petit to give up on wrestling long ago.
But now his "sticktoitiveness" is paying off in a major way.
Unlike many wrestlers who work their way up the weight classes, all the while wrestling with the varsity team, Petit is in his first full season on the varsity team.
For years he was stuck behind standouts like Daren Wingert and Lee Graves. Last year as a junior, Petit looked like he'd finally crack the varsity lineup. He started the season with an outstanding showing at the FCLMC Invitational, pinning his way to the tournament title.
But soon after, he came down with mononucleosis. Petit lost a great deal of weight and never was able to fully return to the wrestling room.
"It's too bad because I think he could have had a great year last season," Matiash said.
Active in 4-H and Future Farmers of America, not to mention football, track and field, homework and farm work, Petit had plenty of reasons to give up on wrestling.
But he didn't. And here he is as a senior, wrestling a full varsity season for the first time and rolling up an eye-popping 34-1 record. Petit started the year unranked, but he's climbed all the way to No. 2 in the Class AA state rankings at 220.
"Tyler has always had that farm-kid mentality; he always shows up, ready to work hard every day," Matiash said. "But what he's done this year, in his first full season on varsity has been pretty incredible."
Matiash said simply the fact that Petit stuck with wrestling impresses him the most.
"In this day and age, where everyone wants instant gratification, for him to stuck with the sport all these years, even when he hasn't been in the lineup, that's amazing," Matiash said. "He's even had friends telling him to quit. But he's stuck it out the whole time, and we're seeing it pay off."
It wasn't just his friends telling him wrestling might not be his sport. Petit, who qualified for state in track and field and was an all-conference center for the football team, said even his parents weren't always on board.
"My dad wasn't too hot on it, and my mom just said if I can pay for it, I can do it," Petit said. "There were times I definitely thought about (quitting). But I always loved the challenge of wrestling, and I figured I'd eventually get my chance."
Petit has made the most of that chance in 2011-12. His lone loss was to a wrestler from Decorah, Iowa. Petit said his biggest challenge within Minnesota has come from Caledonia/Houston's Travis Frank, a wrestler he'll likely see this weekend during the Section One individual wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at Mayo Civic Center.
As far as skills, Matiash said Petit has plenty.
"He'll shoot on anybody, and I think that's what's made him so good," Matiash said. "Some of those big boys aren't used to seeing someone as active as Tyler. He wears them down."
After getting to state in both football and track and field, Petit set just one goal for the wrestling season — wrestle at Xcel Energy Center in March. As the No. 1 seed at 220 in Section One, that's easily within reach for the PEM standout.
"I think that would be a fun way to end this run," he said. "If I get there, anything can happen. Hopefully I can feel what it's like to be up there."