( Story courtesy of Dan Brown – Daily Record )

Less than 24 hours before his state final match Sunday, Sevi Garza was frustrated.

All the Rittman senior could do, after giving up points late and surviving a scare in his quarterfinal match the night before, was sit on the bleacher with his own thoughts.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘This isn’t the best that I’ve wrestled,’” he recalled. “I’m a much better wrestler than that. All the training, all the hard work I’ve put in, I’m a better wrestler than that.

“I had to come out today and prove that.”

Boy, did he ever.

Garza rebounded from his personal struggles in the earlier rounds to defeat Waynedale’s Peyton Lemon with a 5-2 decision for the OHSAA State Championship at 170 pounds — the first individual crown for the Rittman program and the capper to Garza’s impressive 41-0 season.

But those tears of joy that he shed in the back hallway at Marion Harding after the state-title win were much different than those of frustration in his eyes following a quarterfinal bout with Eastwood’s Jimmy Recknagel in which he gave up a takedown late and needed to hold on to even advance.

All he needed to readjust his mental game was to read a simple text message from Rittman assistant coach Jonathan Wyant to kickstart a day to remember.

“Coach sent me a text this morning that said, ‘Today is a new day,’” Garza said. “That helped out, too, because he knew what I was going through yesterday.”

And Garza was able to rinse that bad taste out of his mouth in the morning session, where he picked up an efficient 6-2 decision over Legacy Christian’s Nick Alvarez.

From there, the stage was set for an All-Wayne County Athletic League state championship match — just the second time two Wayne County wrestlers had met on the big stage, joining Northwestern’s John Huber and Waynedale’s Joe Kikume meeting for the 167-pound title in 1984.

And, like he’s done in the previous three meetings this season with Lemon, Garza set the tone early.

After failing to execute a single-leg move in the first period, Garza followed up an escape with his first takedown in the second. Like Saturday, he ran into a little trouble late in regulation, when Lemon had him in a hold and was ready to turn him with the score at 3-2.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Indians coach Rey Garza, Sevi’s father. “For a coach or a dad to feel this, it’s wonderful. All the hard work he’s put in, all the long practices — he would drive to Cleveland — it was never me; it was always him. He wanted to do it.”

Less than a day before, however, the father-and-son combo sat on a set of pullout bleachers near one of the mats, Rey Garza saying something in his ear and Sevi nodding his head, as they contemplated what to do next.

It was quite a final chapter to a storied career, one that Garza had only dreamed about.

Until it all became a reality Sunday night.

“It’s unreal,” Sevi said, with tears in his eyes. “Everything you look forward to, as a freshman, watching it in middle school, this is everything looked up to. And I finally did it. I finally did it.”