Mize never gave up in quest for a state title
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
PELHAM – He knew the pain of bitter defeat, the pain of coming close and just missing out on a championship. In 2002, Hartselle freshman Luke Mize advanced to the 112-pound final at the state wrestling championships, only to lose and take home second place. In 2003, he repeated as a state runner-up, this time in the 125-pound class.
In 2004, he lost in the finals of the 135-pound class. The defeat was the hardest for Mize to accept. A third straight loss in a state final caused him to contemplate giving up the sport of wrestling and leaving the Tiger team before his senior season.
"It was very hard to deal with," Mize said.
"I thought to myself, 'I'm done with wrestling. I'm going to quit.' I was thinking about quitting before we even left the arena."
However, a heart-to-heart talk with head coach Keith Corder changed Mize's mind and he decided to wrestle one more year.
The decision proved to be a good one last Saturday as Mize won his first state title in his final high school match, defeating Ben East of Arab, 8-4.
While warming up before the match, doubts raced through Mize's mind, residue from three years of frustration.
"I thought to myself, it's been four years, it's bound to be my year," Mize said.
"But then I started thinking how bad it would feel to finish second a fourth time.
"I don't think I could have handled another defeat."
Mize jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the opening period of the final's match when he scored the first takedown.
The two points boosted Mize's confidence.
"It took a weight off my shoulders," Mize said.
"If I had gotten behind, I think I would have started thinking, 'Here we go again.'"
Mize never trailed in the match.
After scoring a third takedown midway through the final period, he had a 6-2 lead.
After a stoppage of the action shortly thereafter because both wrestler went out of bounds, Mize took a look at the clock to see how much time remained between him and a state title.
The timer showed only 80 seconds were left until he could claim the crown.
"I said to myself, 'I'm almost there. I'm almost there,'" Mize said.
"All I could think of was to keep pushing and not to get thrown and let him get two points back."
Mize wouldn't be thrown, defeating a wrestler who had beaten him a week earlier in the sectional finals.
When the referee blew his whistle, signifying the match's end, Mize stood erect and shot both his fists high in the air in triumph.
The scoreboard showed him an 8-4 victor and the 140-pound state champion.
"I sorta blacked out for a second," Mize said. "Then I thought 'I've finally done it. I've gotten what I always wanted. I finally got mine.'"