Before the storm, Sydney Lauti is looking for the calm.
Moments before taking to the mat for his final match-up in the Region 6 Tournament, Lauti looks up to the stands. The 5-foot-9 Highland wrestler needs to scan the crowd before he can focus on his opponent. The adrenaline is at a fever pitch in his veins before he crosses to the center of the circle to face Ben Crosby of Clearfield. It's not until he finds his family that he can relax and get to the business at hand.
He can't lose in front of his mother. More important, Lauti cannot lose in front of his brothers.
"I won't lose in front of those guys," Lauti said of his motivation to pin opponents. "I do whatever it takes to win out there."
The youngest of 13 children, Lauti is the sixth son to go through Highland's wrestling program and is on the brink of doing something none of his older brothers accomplished placing in state. After dismantling Crosby in the regional tournament, Lauti is one of the top four seeded wrestlers going into this weekend's UHSAA state championships.
For the baby brother of the family, he is making a huge impact for the Rams. Coach Ted Sierer has watched four members of the Lauti clan go through his wrestling program and sees something special in Sydney. He describes the four-year varsity wrestler as a focused competitor with superior athleticism.
"He has really grown up a lot, both on the mat and in the classroom," Sierer said. "He's a captain that leads by example who is a well-rounded wrestler."
Lauti is the lucky number 13. During his senior year, the 160-pound grappler has earned a 35-4 record, but this is far from satisfactory to him. As he retells how he lost his four matches this season, you can see the tension swell in his arms as he ties his battered wrestling shoes. Asked why a 35-4 record isn't good enough, Lauti explains he knows he can do better.
"I should be 39-0," he says. "I put so much work into this that I should be perfect."
Sierer has coached his athletes to never hesitate while in the ring. Lauti, who relies heavily on his speed and strength to take down opponents, credits Sierer for instilling this lesson. In all portions of Lauti's life, he tries to never hesitate and attacks every opportunity with the zeal he shows on the mat.
"It is always better to bring it to somebody first and make him question why he didn't act," Lauti said. "As wrestlers, we can never hesitate. We always need to be moving forward."
Lauti is a three-sport athlete who plays running back for the Rams and scrum-half for the Trybe Rugby Football Club. Sierer is impressed that Lauti never takes a break from sports during the school year and credits him for having the type of personality that can take perspective on his accomplishments. As the head coach, Sierer is able to enjoy the small victories that come from Highland's accomplishments. Lauti's performance on the mat has been a point of pride.
"Sydney has what it takes to place in state," Sierer said. "I've enjoyed the ride of watching him come along as a wrestler." Sydney Lauti file
Sydney Lauti will be going on an LDS mission after high school.
The three-sport athlete plays football, wrestles and plays rugby.
The youngest of 13 children, Lauti has a chance of being the first brother to place in state.