Connor De Pianta is a leader for Strawberry Crest wrestling.
Strawberry Crest senior Connor De Pianta went undefeated at the 2018 West Florida Open wrestling tournament in July. De Pianta, who wrestles at 138 pounds, is enjoying his leadership role within the Chargers' changing program and wants to help his teammates succeed on and off the mat while he pursues his own state championship goals.
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You're going to be counted on to be a leader for Strawberry Crest this year. How have you prepared for the extra responsibilities?
I'm feeling really confident. I'd say I have pretty good leadership skills and I know a lot of the boys look up to me. I try to lead by example getting on the mat, being confident, taking shots where I need and showing them there's nothing to be scared of. It's just stepping on the line and doing what you've got to do.
What's one of the most important things you've learned that's helped you shift into this role?
It's persistence. Staying at it. It's not gonna get any easier, so you've got to realize you've just got to do it. One of the sayings I've always been told is, "You don't have to like it, you've just got to do it." I always went by that.
Do you have any college plans?
Service academies, that's my foreseeable future. I'm talking to the Coast Guard Academy, Naval Academy, I've contacted the coaches and they're looking at me as well.
Would you be following any military footsteps in your family, or is this your own thing?
My father's in the Coast Guard, my uncle is Air Force and my grandfather was in the Navy.
What's your favorite subject in school right now?
Science. I love physics, chemistry, all of that.
When you're done with high school and done with your military service, what do you want to do for a career?
I've always loved mechanics. I want to open up my own auto body and service shop. We build Jeeps, my dad and I. I love working on cars, so I want to pursue what I love and help other people along the way.
When did you start wrestling?
I did jiu-jitsu when I was little. One of the coaches I had also wrestled and tried to get me to wrestle with him. It wasn't until my eighth grade year when I started feeling interested. I went to a few classes with him, went to training, stopped and when my freshman summer came around, I was like, "I need to get into wrestling."
When did you decide wrestling was what you wanted to keep doing?
Pretty much when I first stepped on the mat for that first practice.
What advice would you give to anyone joining SCHS this year?
Nothing comes easy and you've got to stay persistent. Just do it. You realize you'll start getting better and growing.
What wrestlers do you look up to and try to be like on the mat?
Actually, Chas Waller and Harry Combs. When I came in, my freshman year, they took me under their wing. I looked up to them a lot. Great leaders, great wrestlers. Nothing but good things to say about them. And coach (C.J.) Gittens, I looked up to him a lot, also. Those are my big three.