Silmi missed much of his senior season because of what Norwalk coach Jim Linder called, “One reason or another” and only had 20 matches under his belt heading into the state tournament as somewhat of an unknown although he placed a season ago. But Silmi rebounded to post an 18-2 record heading into the tournament.
On Friday, Silmi ran into the projected state champion in the quarter finals and beat him 5-4 for the highest point of his career.
“It felt great,” Silmi said. “Just outstanding.”
In the semifinals on Friday, Silmi dropped a heartbreaker in double overtime to send him into the consolation bracket and although his ultimate goal was unachievable at that moment, Silmi still bounced back on Saturday winning a match to send him to a battle for third and fourth.
“It was a huge disappointment last night to lose with five seconds to go,” Linder said. “But that is the nature of this sport. How you measure a man at least in wrestling, is how you bounce back up off of the mat. He was away from home so after a heartbreaking loss like that, he had to go back to the hotel and all you can do is dwell on it.”
Silmi measured up and bounced back time and time again to finish as the third best 220-pound Division II wrestler in the state. His final match against Jack DelGarbino of Girard went exactly as anyone following Silmi’s senior season would have expected. Silmi and DelGrabino battled to a 0-0 tie after the first. In the second, Silmi picked up a couple of back points to take a 2-0 lead but was later taken down to fall to a 2-2 tie. After a reversal, Silmi took a 4-2 lead into the third period.
Silmi started in the down position to begin the third period and picked up escape points to take a 5-2 lead and control of the match. But DelGarbino caught Silmi by surprise with a takedown and a pair of back points to take a 6-5 lead as time ticked away. Silmi rolled off of his back and picked up an escape point as time nearly expired to tie it.
In the overtime period, Silmi earned a take down to earn the 8-6 win and take third place.
“He had two directions he could have gone,” Linder said. “He could have just tanked and given up since he didn’t reach his goal or come back and finish as best he could. That is exactly what he did. Those were two of the best matches he has ever wrestled. He earned it and I am proud as can be. I am honored to be able to coach. He comes from a great family and they all stick together. It was just awesome to be a part of it. I thanked him so many times for bringing me along.”
Silmi, who had no energy left, did his best to describe the emotions he was feeling.
“I am just very excited,” Silmi said trying to catch his breath with blood running from his nose. “It may not have been exactly where I wanted to be, but it is the next best thing.”
Linder admits Silmi taught his teammates, who filled the stands and could be heard throughout the Schott, a little bit about overcoming adversity.
“It says something about his character and work ethic,” Linder said. “It makes it special and it even makes it more special to have the team up there watching. It sends a message to the rest of the kids. We have a young team and they are worth every penny to bring along to witness this. It will pay dividends.”
For Silmi, ending his career with a third place finish in the state was exactly how en envisioned the end of his career going regardless of how his senior year started.
“It just feels outstanding,” Silmi said. “I didn’t want anything less than a trip to state. I just kept working hard even when I wasn’t wrestling. I had this goal in my mind and I wasn’t going to stop working until I got it.”