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Holy Cross' Correnti eyes last shot at state title

The raw emotion that poured out of Matt Correnti nine months ago was hard to watch and even harder to forget.

The raw emotion that poured out of Matt Correnti nine months ago was hard to watch and even harder to forget.

Correnti was seconds from winning a 195-pound state title. He was moments from ending his junior season with a 44-0 record, achieving a goal he'd literally dreamed about, sacrificed and fought for through three years of high school wrestling.

But suddenly, a takedown by his opponent with four seconds left. A counter in overtime. A dream denied.

The moment was so poignant that it couldn't help but linger, at least outwardly, into this season.

The question is obvious, and Correnti is likely to hear it throughout his senior season at Holy Cross: How do you recover from such a heartbreaking loss?

The most surprising part to his answer is the tone in his voice, bordering on Zen.

"I think, this year, I'm more relaxed," Correnti said, completely defying the pressure one would think might be weighing on him days before the start of the season.

"I'm not thinking about [last year]. It bothered me for a while, but I'm over it now. I'm just straightening my head and moving forward. I'm not thinking about anything but wrestling as hard as I can."

The attitude might defy the emotion of that final match last season, but it's perfectly logical. Strip away the noise and the storylines and Correnti is still one of the most dominant high school wrestlers in the state.

And each season he's only gotten stronger and more polished. He has the tools to win a state title - that much can't be denied by anyone. Correnti knows it. Winning a state title, then, is simply a matter of wrestling the way he's capable of wrestling.

"It was definitely a tough finish to a great season," Holy Cross coach Adam Cooney said. "He came up short in one match, unfortunately it was the biggest match of the season. That's what a lot of people are going to remember, but he was fantastic last year, and there was a lot of positives to carry into the offseason."

There couldn't be a more perfect mentor for Correnti right now then Cooney. When Cooney was sophomore at Holy Cross in 2001, he was a heavy favorite to win a state title but came up short in the championship match.

He won his junior and senior years.

"He knew what it felt like, and he knew what I was going through after it happened," Correnti said. "He told me just to put it in the past - just work on some of the things that I messed up on - just keep working every day."

Hard work is cathartic for Correnti. It's also paid off. The Rutgers recruit has gotten better each year of his high school career, placing eighth in states as a freshman, third his sophomore year, and runner up last year.

And that's what Correnti is thinking about entering this season. He said he's committed himself to the weight room. He's stronger. And he's working every day to become a better wrestler - just like he's done throughout his high school career.

This weekend, Correnti's final quest for a state title begins in earnest with the Beast of the East - a high-profile regional tournament that he won last year.

Right now, that's where his focus is. Others will likely bring up last year's state tournament throughout this season. And Correnti will probably think about it too. But it won't be a distraction - and it won't be hard to keep that pressure in the background. Correnti is a dominant wrestler, he knows it. And right now, he's just focused on showing it every day.

"I'm just going out there and wrestling as hard as I can. Whatever happens, happens," Correnti said. "My biggest focus is treating my body right, staying healthy, eating right and just wrestling hard every day. No breaks."