ALBANY — With each season that ended without Zack Lawrence winning a state championship, he took comfort in knowing he’d have another chance the next year.
“There isn’t going to be any next year,” Lawrence, now a senior, said Friday.
Duanesburg’s Lawrence is facing his final shot at winning a state title with renewed drive, and it showed Friday at Times Union Center as he advanced through the preliminary and quarterfinal rounds of the state wrestling championships.
“This year, I haven’t had any distractions and I’ve been focused,” Lawrence said. “This is my last run.”
Lawrence wowed this season with an undefeated record of 46-0 coming into the state tournament. That helped propel him to the position of Section II all-time wins leader with a varsity record of 273-23.
As the No. 1 seed last year, Lawrence was favored to take the state title, but lost in the semifinals. He bounced back and won two more matches to place third.
“Before, I still trained hard, but I wasn’t training that hard,” said Lawrence, who is the No. 1 seed in this year’s Division II 152-pound weight class. “This year, I’ve put a little more time in.”
The deaths of former Duanesburg coach Joe Bena and Lawrence’s grandmother made last year especially tough for Lawrence. He had plenty to overcome in his sophomore year, too, after dealing with a nasty infection that nearly cost him his arm; that year, he was out for a month before recovering in time for the championships.
Friday’s preliminary round began smoothly with Lawrence holding opponent Austin Carman of Section VIII’s Clarke to the mat for most of the first period. Things became more complicated when Lawrence went into the third period sporting a bloody nose, resulting in the match being stopped several times to wipe down the mat.
“It was kind of messing with my flow,” Lawrence said. “We stop, it’s giving the other kid time to breathe — and that’s one thing I don’t want.”
Despite having both nostrils plugged up, Lawrence was able to defeat Carman 11-4 to move himself into the quarterfinal.
Lawrence began his second match with equal focus and won 3-0 against Bryce Smith of Section VII’s Saranac, despite Lawrence’s nose continuing to bleed. The decision victory secured Lawrence a spot in the semifinals on Saturday morning.
Saturday will be Lawrence’s fourth year in the semifinals.
“I’ve never won a semi, so hopefully tomorrow everything works out well,” Lawrence said. “I just have to keep the right mindset. That’s the biggest thing.”
Lawrence said he couldn’t have come this far without the support of his team.
“The key thing is your partners and your coaches,” Lawrence said. “If I didn’t have them, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
Instead, it’s easy to define where Lawrence is as he heads into the final day of his high school wrestling career.
He’s two wins away from a state championship.
“You have to wrestle 100 percent all the time,” Lawrence said. “You always want to go into a match like it’s your last one.”
Hanna Smith is an intern at The Daily Gazette. Smith is a student at Hudson Valley Community College.