Shedleski isn’t focusing on past as he makes last run

A year ago Andrew Shedleski walked into the Giant Center for the PIAA Wrestling Championships with a softball in his sock. Well, not a literal one. But the swelling in his ankle looked like it was the size of a softball.

The result of a gym class accident left the Lewisburg wrestler nowhere near 100 percent as he worked toward his first state medal. Shedleski wrestled through the pain, but he just wasn’t his same explosive self. He couldn’t create action on his feet the way he did through the regular season. Just getting up and down off the mat was a struggle.

Shedleski exited the Giant Center after a disappointing 1-2 finish failing to place at the state tournament for the second consecutive year. But he learned a valuable experience in his two days in Hershey he’s carried with him through his senior season this winter.

He’s learned to soak in the moment. He’s learned to absorb everything going on around him and cherish it.

“It’s about having fun with everything,” Shedleski said after his third-place finish at 182 pounds at the Northeast Regional. “It’s about wrestling like any match could be the last match.”

The only thing left for Shedleski to do in his high school career is win a state medal. He’s done just about everything else. He’ll begin his third attempt at that elusive state medal on Thursday morning at the PIAA Wrestling Championships.

The same Giant Center which has been so cruel to him in the past, is the venue where he’ll work to achieve the only empty spot on his resume. But he has a different mindset coming into the state tournament this year.

The pressure should be unbearable. He’s already among the top wrestlers Lewisburg has ever produced in terms of wins. His 137 career victories are tied with Jordan Gessner for the third most on the school’s all-time list. But he feels no pressure. He’s just ready to wrestle.

“I know there’s a little more pressure with it being my last chance to get on the podium,” Shedleski said. “But honestly, I’m pretty relaxed right now. I feel good. I’m going to have fun.”

The hard work for Shedleski is already done. He’s wrestled well enough to earn the opportunity to compete at Lehigh University beginning in the fall. Heck, he doesn’t even take high school classes anymore and instead attends classes at Bloomsburg University through a program which allows him to earn college credits while still in high school.

Having his future taken care of, that’s what allows Shedleski to be so relaxed coming into the tournament. He doesn’t have to worry about a freak accident in gym class dooming his state tournament because he doesn’t have to take a gym class.

It’s part of the reason he was so dominant through the regular season. He was 27-0 entering the postseason with 17 bonus-point wins and six forfeits.

But Shedleski has learned more about what he’s capable of in three losses over the last three weeks than he did in an undefeated two-month run to start the season. His only losses of the season have come to Southern Columbia state placewinner Gaige Garcia in each of the last three weeks. He fell to Garcia in the 182-pound final at the South Sectional tournament. He then lost to Garcia in the semifinals of both the District 4 and Northeast Regional tournaments.

“Moving forward, we’re two of the top-ranked guys in the state and it lets me know I’m going to competing with everyone at states,” Shedleski said. “I’m coming out of (regionals) with a chip on my shoulder and some losses under my belt, and that’s a good way to go into the tournament.”

Shedleski understands the big picture. He knows his life and his career is not going to be defined by what happens over the course of three days in Hershey later this week. There’s so much more yet to come for him and he understands that.

But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win. Shedleski carries with him a confidence which allows him to believe he’s capable of winning any match he wrestles. It’s far from cockiness, but he’s learned over the course of four years how confidence can help you win a match you’re maybe not supposed to, and a lack of confidence can help you lose a match you’re not supposed to.

What he learned from his battles with Garcia is there are very few wrestlers he wouldn’t be in a match with. So he’s confident he can come out of his final trip to the Giant Center with the medal which has eluded him thus far. But whether he does or not is practically irrelevant to himself.

“This last week isn’t going to be the thing which makes my career all worth it,” Shedleski said. “The whole four years make it all worth it. I’ve had a great time wrestling for coach (Jim) Snyder and I’ve set up my future real well. This next week is going to be great, but it’s just going to cap off everything else I’ve already done.”