The words coming out of Shawn Nitcznski's mouth didn't match the expressions on his face.
The Sullivan County senior said it was "rewarding" to be back at Williamsport's Magic Dome, competing in the District 4 wrestling tournament. But holding his silver medal in his hands, he didn't seem to fully believe that.
There was still some frustration because of the color of the medal. The senior is making his last run through the postseason, a run he already knows is going to end his wrestling career, so he wants to make the most of the opportunity he has in front of him. Finishing second to Central Columbia's Lewis Williams at 126 pounds didn't seem to be part of the process.
Shawn Nitcznski, rear, is Sullivan County’s all-time wins leader, but he hasn’t reached the PIAA?tournament since his freshman year in 2011.
But just being back at the Magic Dome was a big step for Nitcznski. The 2011 state qualifier hasn't achieved nearly the success he did as a freshman with the Griffins. His sophomore year he broke his ankle in the consolation semifinals in a win over Williams and he wasn't able to wrestle at regionals. And last year, he was in a loaded 120-pound weight class and lost the sectional third-place match to Williams, meaning he didn't qualify for the district tournament.
"I didn't think it would be this hard (to get back to states)," Nitcznski said Saturday. "I never would have thought I'd break my leg the next year. I know this is my last chance and everything I've got, I've got to put into this."
Nitcznski wasn't just a state qualifier as a freshman 103-pounder. He was a win away from earning a state medal. It took a loss in the quarterfinals to Bethlehem Catholic's eventual two-time state champion Darian Cruz, and a loss in the second round of consolations to three-time state placewinner Ryan Easter of Bedford to keep Nitcznski from being Sullivan County's first-ever state placewinner.
Ever since that trip to the Giant Center in Hershey, Nitcznski's career has been a bit of a roller coaster. He's always knocked on the door of the upper echelon of District 4's best wrestlers, but has never quite been able to break through.
First it was the broken ankle that kept him from breaking through. Then it was a loaded weight class at sectionals which featured two state qualifiers. Nitcznski seemed to take a big step forward this past weekend, though.
It one of the most unpredictable brackets of the entire District 4 tournament, Nitcznski proved to be one of the best. He set up another showdown with Williams, something which hasn't exactly led to good news in the past.
He couldn't seem to find points on his feet and it cost him in a 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays junior who is on the brink of 100 career wins.
"It comes across my mind once in a while that this is my last year, but I try not to put any pressure on myself," Nitcznski said. "It's still fun to go out there and wrestle. I just want to go out and wrestle."
Nitcznski is aware of what his future holds. He has no plans right now for wrestling in college. He's planning on working on a farm full-time after graduation, so he's trying to soak in the next week or two, however long his career goes.
And he's already content with what his career has brought him. He's the Griffins' career wins leader with a 120-17 record. He's experienced the thrill of a state tournament, and the perils of wrestling in the best small-school district in the state.
A trip back to states would be wonderful, especially for an opportunity to become the school's first-ever state medalist.
"Even if I don't get back, my career was still successful," Nitcznski said. "I have the career wins record and I'm happy to get that. I want to keep setting it up higher for the next person. This season was fun and I had a lot of fun during the season, but now it's more fun. I only have two more weeks and I'll never wrestle again. So I just want to open up and wrestle."