Among the superlative phrases thatRock Island wrestling coach Joel Stockwell uses in describing 138-pound senior Devin Syler, one easily stands out.|
"He's 100 percent," Stockwell said, "no matter what."
So, if you need a reason how a career junior-varsity wrestler can start his senior season with 17 victories in 19 matches, Syler's work ethic provides the answer. Syler, this week's Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, may not have the most experience or talent on the mat, but fewoutwork him.
"I never thought my hard work would get me this far," Syler said. "It shows it pays off."
The journey to this point is more impressive than Syler's current record.In seventh grade, he started wrestling "because my friends were doing it." A year later, Syler felt this was a sport he would continue once he reached Rocky and over the next three seasons, the spotlight rarely shined on him.
Despite a blue-collar approach thatthe coaches noticed every day, he could not secure a varsity spot.
"Anywhere else in the conference," Stockwell said, "he would have been a varsity guy."
Fourteen varsity matches were all Syler could get in three years.
"He could have been selfish and quit," Stockwell said. "But, he stuck it out."
Presented with the notion of giving up, Syler displayed the character that has him where he is today.
"There were times I thought I wasn't working hard enough," Syler said. "I was wondering if the work would pay off."
A midseason stretch last year provided an answer.Aknee injury to Darius Henderson, then the 132-pound starter, meant Syler was needed at the varsity level. Fourteen matches later, he had 10 victories wrestling in Henderson's spot.
With Syler in the lineup, the Rocks won their second consecutive outright Western Big 6 Conference title.They also saw an unknown develop into a key cog for this season's state-ranked team.
"He's been a nice surprise," Stockwell said. "I knew he would be tough because of the time he's put in. There were glimpses of brightness. But there was a lot of uncertainty once he was out there as a full-time varsity wrestler. He's getting better."
Ranked 11th in the Illinois Matmen Class 2A poll, Syler is showing he can be a consistent performer. Eight of his 17 wins have come via fall and two more are major decisions.
Both losses are to ninth-ranked Dixon junior Kylian Lally. Since the second loss to Lally in the Sterling-Carson DeJarnatt Invitational championship bout, Syler has won 11 consecutive bouts.
"He's become a very important piece to the puzzle," Stockwell said.
How important a piece? In his first year as a full-time varsity starter, Syler is a captain.
"It's his work ethic," Stockwell said. "He doesn't do it by yelling. He's here every day -- first one here and last one here -- busting his butt every minute."
Syler never takes a break on the mat.
"I just have that mindset," Syler said.
Because of that, Syler is thinking big.Asked what he wants to accomplish before his prep career ends, the ultimate finish is a state medal. Up until this year, that did not seem possible.Then again, few thought he could reach the varsity lineup.
"I'm going to make it happen," Syler said.
We all know what that means.
Metro Pacesetter - Rock Island's Devin Syler
Favorite food: Honey barbecue boneless wings
Favorite movie: "Ted"
Favorite Christmas present: Video games
Favorite class: Math with Mr. Melody
Favorite team: Dallas Cowboys
Parents: Mike and Kristy Syler, Rock Island
In the running
Jessica Howell, Moline: Bowled a 767 series to help the Maroons earn a 3,016-2,867 win over United Township.
Aledo, IL Details
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