Westerly High senior Brian Garcia came into this season having never experienced the pleasure of making the podium in his weight class at the state wrestling tournament. That became Garcia's goal.
Not only did he accomplish that feat, he nearly made it to the top step by placing second at 126 pounds at the state championships Saturday in Providence.
"Coach [Al] Gaccione and I had a game plan coming in and we stuck with that game plan. Though we came up short in the finals, to go from not making the podium to making the finals in a year with COVID was pretty good," Garcia said.
Garcia beat three Division I wrestlers along the way with a pin in 52 seconds, followed by a 9-2 decision and an 11-7 win. Westerly competes in Division II during the regular season.
"He wrestled excellent, he was phenomenal," Gaccione said. "He's not a year-round wrestler, but he works hard in practice day in and day out."
Garcia first started wrestling in sixth grade and has made steady improvements during his time at Westerly.
"I have gotten better at the all-around technique of wrestling," Garcia said.
Gaccione said Garcia has developed over the years.
"He's short and stocky and his biggest problem the first two years was that he had a tough time with taller kids," Gaccione said. "It took him a few years to figure out how to counter the cradle and finish takedowns quicker. He's also quicker and more explosive at getting out from the bottom position. He's evolved and learned. He's learned from his setbacks."
Garcia said he has learned some things beyond wrestling during his time with the team.
"Coach Gaccione and coach [Al] Dinwoodie have taught us many life lessons, just the discipline aspect of it and trying to be a leader for the rest of the team," Garcia said.
Garcia plans to wrestle at New England College in Henniker, N.H., in the fall where he will begin his studies without declaring major.
Westerly's Alex Sisco finished fifth at 195 pounds defeating Cumberland's Shane Raposo, 6-4, in his final bout. Sisco finished 4-2 in the tournament.
Westerly tied for 13th with 35 points. Mt. Hope was first with 197 points and Bishop Hendricken was second with 176.