If there was a wrestling accolade to be won during the 2013-14 season, Sam Breese won it.
The biggest award of them all was no exception, as Breese successfully defended his state title by winning his second-straight PIAA Championship at heavyweight, wrapping up an incredible high school career on the mat.
Breese finished the 2013-14 season with a perfect 35-0 record, and along the way won his first-ever District 10 championship, as well as his second-straight region title. It was the perfect season for the Lakeview senior, who entered the year with one result in mind ... repeat as champion.
Anything other than a title defense would have been a failure for Breese, an enormous amount of pressure to carry around. That pressure would prove to be the backbone of his title run this season, as Breese’s success on the mat made him a no-brainer for Meadville Tribune Wrestler of the Year.
The journey begins
When you have the work ethic and motivation to be the best, it’s no surprise that Breese’s athletic prowess extends outside of the gymnasium an onto the football field. The senior helped the Sailors win a District 10 championship while anchoring the offensive and defensive lines.
While nearly everything the Lakeview football team did in 2013 was a positive, the only possible downside was that due to an extended postseason run, Breese wasn’t able to get on the wrestling mat for practice until one week before the team’s first dual meet of the year. Up first was eventual eighth-place state medalist Gene Ringer of Reynolds.
If it were anyone else, that may have been a big cause for concern. For Breese, it was motivation.
“My first match ended up being against (Ringer), and I major decisioned him,” Breese said. “I knew I wasn’t too far off of where I should be. It’s not like I wasn’t in shape, but the conditioning for football and wrestling is a lot different. I knew what I had to do, so I began working out on my own before wrestling began.”
Last season, Breese beat Ringer in a 3-2 decision. Somehow between wrestling seasons, Breese widened the gap between him and his opponents, as Ringer was just the beginning.
“He only had one week to practice before his first match, so conditioning was a factor,” Lakeview head coach Tom Tingley said. “When he beat Ringer, it kind of dispelled any concerns I had. He worked hard in the offseason, even during football. That challenge helped to motivate him to work harder.”
Time for a first
As unlikely as it may seem, despite winning state and regional championships last season, Breese entered the 2013-14 year still devoid of a district title.
That surprising streak came to a crashing halt on Feb. 22, when Breese beat Ringer yet again, this time in a 7-2 decision, to earn his first-ever District 10 championship.
Breese, who said he never performs well at districts, rolled over the competition en route to the title. His final two matches of the tournament both went the distance, but the issue was never in doubt either time. Those two bouts accounted for just the third and fourth time Breese has to wrestle a full match up to that point in the season.
With a D-10 title under his belt, Breese traveled to Sharon and pounded the competition to win his second regional championship.
The stage was set for a return trip to Hershey, the place Breese vowed to return to after his state title the year before.