Disappointment nearly caused Thomas Worthington High School senior Kosta Karageorge to give himself a tattoo as a junior high wrestler when he failed to advance to the state tournament.
At the junior high district tournament when Karageorge was an eighth-grader, all the wrestlers had their weight classes marked on their hands. After the tournament, and his season, came to an end, Karageorge did not wash away the number from his hand. When it started to fade away, he traced over it again and again to remind himself of the feeling he had when he didn't qualify to the state tournament.
Karageorge started wrestling six years ago and his goal always was to win a state championship. Since then, he has done what he could to reach that goal and it helped shape him into a first-time state-qualifier last year. Karageorge went to state last year with a 36-7 record and lost his first two matches.
Wanting to do whatever he could to achieve his dreams, Karageorge was presented with an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Former Thomas assistant Sergei Kitaev, a former Soviet Union national champion who once coached current Cardinals coach Jeremiah Webber, was hired to coach the Belarus national team for the 2012 Olympics. He left to start working with his new team and invited Karageorge to train with the team for two months over the summer. Without hesitation, Karageorge accepted the offer.
"It's kind of funny. At first he was all ready to go," Webber said. "As the time to leave grew closer, he started to get more nervous. He was only 16 at the time, and leaving the country by yourself, that's a big thing."
Training with the team was an all-day ordeal. Karageorge woke up at 7 a.m. to begin the daily agenda at 8 a.m. with stretching, running, calisthenics for two hours, followed with a meal. The team would then walk 30 minutes to another training complex and spend the next three hours wrestling.
Afterward, they returned to the original complex, ate another meal and then wrestled again from 6-9 p.m.
Karageorge's schedule was full every day. At the end of each grueling day, he would immediately go to bed just to start the cycle again in the morning.
Calls and text messages to friends and family happened only a few times because of the cost and time difference. Karageorge spoke with Webber a couple times, each time telling Webber how sore he was and how much he was getting beat up in practice.
Going through each day not thinking about the next, Karageorge grinded through it and did not get homesick.
"I figured I wasn't missing much here anyway," Karageorge said.
Karageorge and Kitaev worked together before, but the new coach was so inundated by paperwork he rarely joined the practices, training and weightlifting sessions, leaving Karageorge on his own.
Karageorge started to see improvements on and off the mat. His wrestling improved where he wasn't just fodder for the Belarusians and he had started to learn some Russian.
But upon Karageorge's return home, what Webber noticed most about him was a change in mentality.
"It wasn't just his technique, it was his attitude. He was 100 times more aggressive, more active and more intense," Webber said. "His attitude completely changed."
After arriving home, Karageorge weighed 240 pounds and was looking to get bigger. He and Webber started an intense weightlifting regiment. It helped push Karageorge to almost 290 pounds by the start of the varsity wrestling season.
All the training and hard work paid off so far. Karageorge is 24-0. On Jan. 15-16 at the Alliance Top Gun Tournament, he defeated Kevin Malone of Carrollton, the No. 2-ranked Division II heavyweight with a 1-0 decision in a semifinal.
In the final, Karageorge went down 5-0 in the first period but rallied for a 6-5 decision.
"He kept his cool and his composure there, and that was one thing I wanted to see tested," Webber said. "He handled it professionally, so that was good to see."
At a glance
Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Thomas and Kilbourne wrestling teams:
*Jan. 14 -- Lost to Hilliard Darby 33-30; Defeated Westland 54-26
Jan. 16 -- Finished first (189.5) at London Harry Steel Tournament ahead of second-place London (181) and Springfield Northeastern (151)
*Jan. 21 -- Def. Upper Arlington 34-25
*Jan. 27 -- Def. Thomas 63-12
Last Saturday -- Finished sixth (119.5) behind champion Licking Valley (180.5) at Groveport Cruiser Invitational
*Today -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
Saturday -- At St. Charles Tournament
Of note: The Wolves are 3-1 in OCC-Central duals
*Jan. 14 -- Lost to Hilliard Darby 45-30; Def. Westland 39-36
Jan. 15-16 -- Finished 35th (37.5) behind champion St. Paris Graham (260.5) at Alliance Top Gun Tournament
*Jan. 21 -- Lost to Dublin Coffman 61-13
*Jan. 27 -- Lost to Kilbourne 63-12
*Today -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Saturday -- Home in Cardinal Varsity Wrestling Invitational
Of note: The Cardinals are 1-3 in OCC-Central duals