Changing fresh/soph to varsity might be simple syntax on paper.

Living the difference on the mat is completely different. 

Before the year began, the state knew about Mattoon High School sophomore Ben Capitosi – an All-State finisher at the fresh/soph postseason last year. Making the full commitment to the varsity level took time in the offseason to prepare. Knowing that all of his work was rewarded is what makes qualifying for state such a strange experience. 

“It’s just surreal in a way that you don’t expect that big of a jump to come up so quickly,” said Capitosi. “It’s taken time and it wasn’t something rushed through. I’m just taking my time to think about the progress.”

This year, Capitosi is one of the best wrestlers in the 138-pound weight class after going 41-8 this season. At the sectional, Capitosi received a first-round bye for his Regional Championship. He defeated Donovan Lewis of Mahomet-Seymour to set up the Sectional Championship against Dylan Watts of Bloomington. Watts just barely won the major decision 5-4. 

Capitosi won’t see Watts again unless they met in the wrestlebacks or the state championship. The way Capitosi sees it, Watts is just one of several obstacles to earning a state medall. 

“There are several good kids in the bracket,” said Capitosi. “These kids will be tough, but coach (Brett Porter) always likes to talk about battling adversity. No wrestler in the state is going to be bad. I just have to take it one match at a time.”

Capitosi said sharing his excitement about qualifying with Porter and assistant coach Devin Patterson was one of the highlights. 

“Both coaches were so pumped,” said Capitosi. “Having coaches that have my back and put in the time and work to make me good is great. They pushed me and knew that I could be a great wrestler. Everyone was just happy. Everyone was clapping. It was just an awesome moment to experience.”

Capitosi wrestles Eli Gonzalez of Washington (28-16) in the first round at the state tournament. If he wins, he will wrestle Joey Baranski (30-11) of Chicago Heights and Anthony Streib (23-3) of Antioch.  

Capitosi said he is going to enjoy his first state experience – but earning a medal is the goal. 

“Placing is something that I feel is achievable when I look at the bracket,” said Capitosi. “That’s my goal. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It was so surreal seeing my teammates last year and the program sending six. It will be just as fun this year being a part of it with my teammates. It makes it more unique being able to bond and hang out when there is downtime.”