Column: Sarnowski has sight on state title

It's certainly easy to become disillusioned with sports in the ESPN age when the ills of the competitive spirit can be so easily seen as low as the high school level or even lower.

But when someone talks about how society is going to you know where or about the latest athlete who is filling the crime blotter, remember to tell them about kids like Justin Sarnowski.

Sarnowski is a breath of fresh air who provides plenty of perspective in a polluted sports world. Yes, he does have a personalized lincense plate: "Sarno."

But after all, that's what his teammates call him. And he does drive a small, economy car.

Carson High wrestling coach Tim McCarthy put it best when he said about Sarnowski: "Very good student, real dedicated kid."

Sarnowski is coming off an outstanding football season for the Senators and the Carson senior is now in the midst of finishing an outstanding wrestling career. He's also a 3.8 student who's a member of the National Honor Society.

"I think you have to be a good person also in the classroom and in the community," Sarnowski said.

When asked who he doesn't like, Sarnowski said, "Just cocky athletes." But at the same time, Sarnowski admitted it's difficult for him to always stay humble.

"I guess I kind of celebrate sometimes," he said. "It's hard because I get excited. I get a little cocky sometimes."

Sarnowski said he doesn't have to look too far for a role model: His teammate, Doug Brooks.

"Doug's a good example," said Sarnowski about how he would like to act. "He's really humble. I'd like to be more like that."

Sarnowski and Brooks both have unfinished business. They would both like to go undefeated this season and win state titles, becoming the first wrestlers at Carson to win a state championship since 1988.

While Sarnowski said he's continually reminded that he could become the first Carson wrestler in 12 years to win a state title, he doesn't feel any extra pressure.

He knows from past experience at the state level, it's a crap shoot. Or as Sarnowski put it: "Whoever has the good day."

Sarnowski placed second at state last year and has won two straight Northern Nevada titles. Last year, Sarnowski lost at 130 pounds in the state finals to Dan Shaw, a wrestler who beat him three times last season.

But after two close matches during the season, Shaw beat Sarnowksi soundly in the state finals.

"I wasn't very pleased with my performance," said Sarnowski, who's been wrestling since the sixth grader at Eagle Valley Middle School. "It gave me a taste of what it's all about being in the finals."

Sarnowski defeated Wooster's J.W. Lazarri for the zone title. Going into the zone finals, Sarnowski and Shaw hadn't beaten Lazarri.

Lazarri is now wrestling in Brooks' class at 140 pounds while Sarnowski is at 135 pounds. Last year, Brooks beat the two state finalists in winning the state title.

Sarnowski and Brooks often train together. Sarnowski said one of his strengths is his defense and it may be partly because he trains against Brooks, who is a strong offensive wrestler.

"He's got a real good shoot, so he helps me on my defense," said Sarnowski about Brooks.

"We help each other with our weaknesses. He's a top caliber wrestler. We make each other better."

Sarnowski can also be a strong offensive wrestler, particularly when he's on top of his opponent. "That's when I score my points is on top," he said.

Brooks and Sarnowski will put their unbeaten records on the line today and Friday in the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno. "It's definitely the toughest tournament of the year," Sarnowski said.

In the past two years, Sarnowski has made the semifinals in the event and has placed three times in the tournament. As a sophomore, Sarnowski lost 1-0 in the semifinals to the eventual champion.


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