Just a week prior to the state finals, Patterson Mill junior Zach Cullison was left about a foot below Kent Island’s Shane Smith on the 1A/2A Regional awards podium, losiong to the Buccaneer in the regional finals, 5-2. But that was a week ago.
With seven days to learn and build upon his mistakes, Cullison knew what he would need to do in order to beat the Kent Island senior, this time in the 119-pound state finals, and did so in capturing Patterson Mill its first ever state championship.
“I went in there knowing what I had to do, worked on stuff against him since I faced him in regions and perfect it,” Cullison said. “I knew everything he was going to do, he hadn’t changed much and I just attacked it.”
Cullison attacked ever facet of Smith’s ability on the mat, earning the first takedown and establishing a firm lead before sealing the 5-0 decision, despite Smith’s attempts at nearly pinning his way through the 2011 tournament.
“Me attacking was defiantly a big deal,” Cullison explained, after earning first points and controlling his first ever state finals match. “I attacked in the first match, but couldn’t seem to finish past his defense. But this time, I just went with the outside, cut the angles and got the sweeps.
“It is the best feeling of my life, and I just defend it next year, I guess.”
Cullison’s prior entrances to the state tournament saw him fall short of the finals, but it was his composure, according to coach Ryan Arist, which helped him become the first Husky to capture state gold.
“He is awesome and shows so much composure,” Arist said of Cullison. “You wouldn’t have thought he was a junior in his first state finals, he just acted like he had done it before. The kid handled him at regions, and he came back this time and just did what he had to do.
“Just being a new school and having our first finalist is just huge. “It is huge for the team and huge for the school.”
And, being a junior, Cullison will have a chance next year to become the school’s first ever two-time state champion, looking to return to the 2012 MPSSAA State Tournament to defend what he rightfully earned this year.
“I have to do the same thing I did this year,” Cullison said, “just constant summer workouts at Kolat, stay in touch with my coach and do all the right things.”