Twice-Told Tale

The Student News Site of Lake Highland Preparatory School

Twice-Told Tale

Twice-Told Tale

Wrestling: On and Off the Mat

Serena Young
(Above) Charlie De Sena (left) and Zeno Moore (right), both grade 10, are running through one of the drill techniques during practice. Being a wrestler is a lifestyle of dedication and commitment, and it doesn’t come easy. “Traveling, making weight, competing, doing homework at the airport during a delayed flight, getting back Monday morning at 1:00 A.M., and then showing up to school the same day. It’s a grind,” Omer Barak, grade 12 said. Yet, he loves the sport because of the, “Sacrifice it entails, and the dedication…and the hard work you put in shows. There’s no hiding.” This hard-won relationship of devotion is clearly echoed throughout the team. Yes, it’s hard, but that’s exactly what wrestlers love about it. In this spirit, it becomes more than just wrestling. It’s tackling and growing from valuable life lessons.

Lake Highland Prep is a name every wrestler is bound to know. The school’s wrestling team has set national records for the most points scored in a high school state tournament and the most individual state champions in one season, with 39 D1 college signees and multiple alumni competing at the international level. There is much more than what meets the eye as stories are uncovered about these incredibly committed athletes. What got them to where they are today? What are practices like? What motivates them when they feel like giving up? Highlighting the incredible achievements of this team at Lake Highland, here are their wrestlers, on and off the mat. 

(Above) The LHPS Wrestling team is not short of accolades. They have won eight state championships and three dual championships, breaking national records. The Spartan Regional Training Center Florida at Lake Highland Prep has finished top 10 in the nation eight times, most recently finishing sixth in 2023. The team placed second at Prep Nationals with three National Champs last year. Coach Mike Palazzo is confident with this group of wrestlers, they can do it again. (Emily Cypher)
(Above) It seems almost impossible to imagine that this renowned team started with only three wrestlers. On their very first day of wrestling practice they were pulling branches out from the front of the facility. It took someone with a vision to turn the once run down warehouse with no electricity into a place where every D1 wrestling coach has at once point passed through. That person in question was Coach Mike Palazzo. He laughs back at the memory, reminiscing how they were, “Wrestling more time on tennis courts than on the mat.” Now, the program will be featured in a documentary made by FloWrestling, the leading source around the world related to anything about wrestling. (Serena Young)
(Above) Ethan Rivera (front), grade 12, started wrestling at age six when his father, who was into combat sports, built a wrestling room for him and his brother in their basement. “Without wrestling, I’d be a lot less motivated,” Rivera says. He is set to represent team Puerto Rico in the U20 World Championships. Rivera will be joining Princeton’s D1 wrestling team, and Daniel Aranda (back), grade 12, is committed to Cornell’s D1 wrestling team, both for the Class of 2028. (Serena Young)
(Above) Zeno Moore (left), grade 10, and Charlie de Sena (right), grade 10, take stace in their starting positions. Moore started wrestling when he was six years old, and he has a love for the sport because he, “Love[s] to compete.” But the lifestyle of a wrestler is hard, so when it’s extra tough, Moore reminds himself to, “Look left and right. And not wanting to quit while others are still going.” (Serena Young)
(Above) The wrestlers have morning and afternoon practice four times a week with an “optional” practice on Fridays and tournaments on Saturdays. The mornings are almost an hour full of cardio and cross training while the afternoons are two to three hours packed with drills and live scrimmages. During the off-season, Saturdays become “rumble” days where wrestlers from other schools are invited to wrestle live matches. This is a great way to challenge them. (Serena Young)
(Right) CJ Torres (left), grade 11, placed first at National Preps and is committed to play D1 at University of Michigan, Class of 2029. Jack De Sena (right), grade 12, was thrown into his first wrestling tournament when he was nine years old. In 8th grade, it was a choice between wrestling and soccer, and wrestling won out. When times get hard, he says he, “Tries to see the positive in everything, even if it’s a reach.” De Sena is committed to D1 wrestling in Stanford’s Class of 2028. (Serena Young)
​(Above) Omer Barak (left), grade 12, and Robert Kucharczk (right), grade 11, hit the mat. Before Barak started wrestling as a Freshman in high school, he was already a highly decorated athlete in a different combat sport. Barak is a five-time National Champion in judo, a form of martial arts, and went on to compete for Team USA and won the Pan-American bronze medialist for the sport. As a result, a lot of his wrestling style is influenced by his experience in judo. During his first year joining LHP, he went from fourth place in the state of Florida to placing second at Junior Nationals, and he’s been invited to represent Team Israel for the U20 World Championships. Barak credits the culture of the team and Coach Palazzo for helping him improve. Success comes with sacrifices and commitment as Barak had to move away from his parents in order to attend LHP’s wrestling program. Barak is committed to wrestling D1 at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for the Class of 2028. (Serena Young)
​(Above) Coach Mike Palazzo, who wrestled in college, was initially recruited by a Lake Highland parent to start the wrestling academy, also known as the Spartan Regional Training Center. “They work hard, do a lot, and travel a lot,” says Coach Palazzo. The rigorous training regimen means they, “Missed Homecoming, usually have no vacation, no ski break, no Winter Break…,” and he doesn’t need to continue for the message to be heard. There are no shortcuts to this kind of success both on and off the mat. (Serena Young)
Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Emily Cypher
Emily Cypher, Copy Editor
Emily Cypher, grade 10, is the Copy Editor of Lake Highland Preparatory School’s, Upper School newspaper, the Twice-Told Tale. She found her passion for Newspaper from the iconic show Gilmore Girls, which aired in the 2000s. After reading more books than anyone could count, her passion for writing grew even bigger, as she is currently exploring creative writing as well. The staff and the opportunities that come with being part of the paper are what she enjoys most about being a member of the Twice-Told Tale staff. Emily continues exploring new passions with writing and beyond. Outside of school, she plays volleyball at Game Point Volleyball Club as a libero. Her commitment to the sport helps her time management skills grow along with her ability to be flexible. Emily loves to travel and visits New York as much as she can, and she is excited to push herself to learn new things.
Serena Young
Serena Young, Director of Photography
Serena Young is the Director of Photography of Lake Highland Preparatory School's Upper School newspaper Twice-Told Tale, a publication ranked first in the nation by American Scholastic Press Association. Young is the Co-founder of Athena Sisterhood, a community of over 1.6k women, and was a teen speaker at the Global Youth Mindset Summit. She has traveled to 30+ countries, volunteered over 1,500 hours of community service, and has 7M+ views on Google Reviews. Young started her personal development journey at the age of seven and has attended Tony Robbins's Unleash your Power Within, Global Youth Leadership, Business MasteryLeadership Academy, and Date With Destiny. When not taking a good nap, Young enjoys gourmet food, running long distance, watching award winning movies, and spending quality time with family and friends.

Comments (0)

All Twice-Told Tale Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *