By JARED BELL
Inside the PORTA wrestling room hangs a daily reminder for Trey Hild.
“In our wrestling room, we have a sign that says, ‘Second sucks,’” Hild said. “It’s on the wall and it motivates me every day.”
Hild – whose older brother, Stormy, made the sign – has learned that second sucks firsthand.
In his first two years in high school, the Bluejay wrestler has finished second in the state tournament not once but twice.
That’s two times he’s come painfully close to being a champion but lost.
“I just have to use it as motivation,” Hild said. “I keep reminding myself that this year I don’t want to get second again.”
So far this season, he hasn’t.
Now a 132-pound junior, Hild is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A 132 pounds in the current Illinois Matmen GO EARN IT Wrestling Apparel rankings and is currently 31-0 after he cruised to the 132-pound title at Saturday’s Lyle King Princeton Invitational.
“He’s definitely ahead of where he was last season,” PORTA coach Jeff Hill said. “His conditioning level is way ahead of last year. In everything he does, he’s going 100 percent, and he’s taking himself to that next level.”
It’s all done to make the heartbreak of the last two seasons a thing of the past.
Two years ago as a freshman, Hild made a surprising run to the 1A 120-pound state title match but fell to Coal City’s Cody Minnick by a 12-8 decision.
Last year as a sophomore, he lost to Byron’s Nolan Baker by an 11-3 major decision in the 132-pound state title match.
“Freshman year, we just thought, ‘This is pretty sweet’ because it was a little unexpected,” Hill said. “But sophomore year he had the expectation of ‘Hey, I got second as a freshman and now I think I can win state.’ We didn’t want to come up short and be the stepsister again, but it just didn’t happen.”
It was another gut-wrenching end to another great season.
“In the state finals the past two years, he faced kids who were far and away better than everybody else in the field,” Hill said. “Well, this year, he’s that kid. He’s become the kid that everybody is shooting for and the one everybody wants to beat.”
Hild has now become the upperclassman and the experienced wrestler with a one-track state-title mind.
“This season, I just want to take it one match at a time and go out and wrestle my best,” Hild said. “I don’t look ahead because usually when you do that you’re just setting yourself up for failure.”
However, with how close Hild has come to becoming a two-time state champion, that’s not always easy with the big picture of the state tournament lingering less than six weeks down the road.
“It’s frustrating to see him come so close because you know how hard he works,” Hill said. “You see what he does in the offseason and what he does to lead our team, and then to not reach that goal is tough especially when you know all season it’s in his mind.”
While his dream of being a four-time state champion is no longer a possibility, ending his run of runner-up finishes is something he’s aiming to end at this year’s state tournament.
“I really want redemption,” Hild said. “I want to get back to state and I want to get first.”
This season, Hild wants to show second place that it’s a thing of his past.
“I’ve dreamed of winning a state title my whole life,” Hild said, “so I might as well do it now.”
Jared Bell can be reached at (815) 220-6938. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.