wrestling is entering a new era.
How does three individual state championships, two national titles, four regional titles and four district titles sound?
Not bad for a program in just its 15th season.
Well, actually, those titles are not from the Wharton Wildcat wrestling team. Those are from senior Tyler Liberatore in his first three years of high school wrestling, including one year competing as an eighth-grader.
Liberatore is a transfer from the wrestling empire of Brandon.
"It's a really close family over there," said Liberatore. "It's always a room full of state and national champions; it's a tough environment."
"It makes you better just being in the room with talent like that," he added.
Liberatore is not just better this year, wrestling at 138 pounds; he's utterly unstoppable. He is a whopping 54-0 after claiming his fourth individual district title last Saturday. No wrestler took him more than a minute into the first round before being pinned. When asked what his toughest match of the year has been, he could not come up with an answer. Even a 34-6 senior in Ryan Myers of Palm Harbor fell in the first round of the district title match.
Liberatore will likely hit some stiffer competition at regionals. No doubt Troy Joyce of Brandon would like to hand his old teammate an upset and Osceola (Kissimmie) should present a threat at 138 pounds as well.
However, Liberatore does not like to lose; he's certainly not used to it.
"I think the more you win, the more you hate to lose," he said.
Liberatore has been wrestling since he was eight years old. His father got him started wrestling in the living room and his older brother, Stan, was a two-time state runner up for Sickles High School.
Tyler should still have his best wrestling in front of him. He is poised to qualify for yet another state finals appearance this weekend and he has already signed a letter of intent to the University of Arizona State, where he will wrestle under the tutelage of legendary wrestling coach and former Olympian Shawn Charles.