Hard work, sacrifice pay off for Kostis
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Getting to the top of the state's 4-A 132-pound weight class in prep wrestling was a long road for Demetreus Kostis.
The Watauga senior has been to four state 4-A wrestling championship tournaments. The first three did not end up the way he wanted -- a state championship.
The fourth was a different story. Kostis won his first state title when he beat Garrett Hinton of Fayetteville Jack Britt 2-1 at the Greensboro Coliseum on Feb. 22.
Kostis finished his season with a 52-1 record. He won over 170 matches over the course of his four years at Watauga, and ended it by sticking a championship banner up on the wall at Lentz-Eggers Gym.
After a week of celebration that included numerous congratulations from fellow Watauga High School students and teachers, the fact that he is a state champion is starting to settle in. He was honored at halftime of Watauga's boys' basketball playoff game against McDowell at Lentz-Eggers Gym on Wednesday.
"It's kind of hard to believe there that right after the match when I got my hand raised that it wasn't just another match and another tournament," Kostis said. "After I was told that I was a state champ, we celebrated and it was a great feeling of having the title of state champion."
Kostis didn't just wake up and suddenly win a state championship. He comes from a wrestling family that includes his brother, Savva, who also wrestled at Watauga and at Appalachian State.
Kostis didn't get to do things other teenagers get to do. Want a cheeseburger? Sorry, not going to happen. Kostis does not eat red meat during the season.
Instead, he gets his proteins from chicken, fish and shrimp. Things that other students might take for granted, like eating French fries, are off limits.
But since the season is over, Kostis said he indulged in a juicy steak and sweet tea Saturday night in celebration.
"After cutting weight for so long and cutting your red meats and eating healthy, to celebrate you go out and get a nice piece of steak and just relax and enjoy it," Kostis said. "Afterwards we had a baked potato and some chicken wings and stuff."
Kostis has earned a day off from his training table. He went through a season where he finished 48-1 after the 4-A western regionals. He went into the state tournament as the No. 1 seed from the west, and faced David Losada.
Kostis beat Losada, who is from Raleigh Sanderson, 15-2. With that win under his belt, Kostis beat Joe Mondragon of Wilmington Ashley, which set up a showdown with Kollin Wade of Cary.
"The first day, I had to win the match to get to the quarterfinals," Kostis said. "I went out there, took it to the kid and won 15-2. I had a tough kid in the quarterfinals too. He placed fifth in the state, but I took it to him and won 9-3."
Wade was the top seed from the Mideast regional and one of the favorites to win the state title. Kostis was able to beat Wade 5-4 in one of Kostis' toughest matches of the season.
Wade slipped to 43-4, and eventually won the consolation round.
"I knew that I had already placed in the semifinals, but I didn't let that get to me," Kostis said. "I stayed focused and knew what I had to do to keep wrestling. It was one of the toughest matches this year I've ever had."
That victory brought Kostis to the final match of the season, a showdown with Hinton, who was a member of the powerful Jack Britt team. Kostis had wrestled Hinton already during the season and had video of his opponent.
Kostis first walked in the Parade of Champions, where the finalists walk a lap around the packed Greensboro Coliseum before the matches started. The 132-pound matches were the first to be staged, so Kostis had to warm up fast and get ready to face Hinton.
"They had the parade of champions, which is a great honor," Kostis said. "To be up there and see the Greensboro Coliseum all filled up with people hollering for you, I had to stay focused and keep the crowd out of everything."
When Kostis got his chance, he took advantage of a slight mistake by Hinton and got a reversal and a 2-0 lead. He said that move gave him momentum and took a little away from Hinton.
Kostis then let Hinton escape so they could wrestle on their feet, which is in Kostis' comfort zone. Kostis survived to win.
Kostis said having the film of Hinton paid dividends once the match started.
"We stayed focused on what that kid did from when we wrestled before and what he knows and what he is good at," Kostis said. "We looked at all that, we watched film of him wrestling me before and just put that in my head and just drilled it in warm-ups. We got there out on the mat and I stopped everything he had. He couldn't take me down with his ankle pick. I felt confident being on bottom and I was successful getting a reversal."
Kostis also said he got a lift mentally from scoring first, and sensed that Hinton felt a little let down by falling behind.
"As soon as I got those points, I knew I was good," Kostis said. "I felt good and he kind of let up after I got the reversal. He didn't give up, but he just kind of let up a little bit. I could feel it. I knew if I kept wrestling, I was in shape for this, so I kept going and it turned out good."
Kostis stayed in shape for the state tournament by working out during the week. He had a light workout the previous Monday to help with his recovery from winning the regional tournament two days earlier.
Workouts picked up during the week, especially on Tuesday. Kostis did a drill called the "Iron Man," where he is in the middle of a circle surrounded by other wrestlers, who he has to take on one at a time one after the other.
Kostis got help from the Watauga coaching staff and teammates Mark Townsend (120 pounds), Eli Hawley (145 pounds) and Gabe Irwin (160 pounds) to push him during the week, especially on Tuesday.
Savva Kostis and assistant coach Michael Jones also participated in the drills.
"We wanted a couple of guys bigger than me to provide some muscle, so if I had to wrestle someone who was stronger, I could handle it," Kostis said.
Kostis' future remains unknown. He'd like to wrestle in college, and has drawn interest from Appalachian State. Coaches from North Carolina State also talked with him after his championship match.
Kostis said he'd like to study either sports science or criminal justice, but is keeping all of his options open.
"It's awesome to see them there," Kostis said. "I've always been interested in their school. After winning the state championship, there are a lot of open doors for me now."
Those doors are just another of the spoils of victory that Kostis has earned.