Wrestling is built around a family mentality. Anyone in the Central Pennsylvania wrestling scene can tell you that.
To build it there first needs to be a leadership figure, someone the entire team can trust to guide them in the right direction.
Last season for Mechanicsburg, that leader was middleweight Brayden Wills. Wills knew what it took to win and to reach the podium at states. His seventh-place finish in the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships and a 112-33 career record proved it.
However, Wills needed to pass on the torch when graduation came around. To most teams its a tough decision to make. For the Wildcats, well, head coach Greg Budman knew exactly who would fit into the role.
“Brady Serina has really stepped up to the position that Brayden Wills once held,” he said. “Brady has become the leader of the team and the kids are coming to him for advice and other information.”
Serina’s wasn’t Wills last year — he went 22-9 last season with a fifth-place finish at sectionals — but Serina know what it takes to be the best of the best: hard work and dedication on and off the mat. That mentality is what drew other wrestlers on the team to him.
Serina first got into wrestling after seeing everyone on his mom’s side grapple — funnily enough, all for Mechanicsburg. When Serina was 5 years old, he finally got the chance to try the sport out.
And some others.
“I tried to play other sports growing up, but was awful at everything,” Serina said, emphasizing “tried.” “I couldn’t catch, couldn’t throw and I couldn’t hit a ball... which kept me in wrestling.”
Another thing that kept Serina coming back to wrestling was the support he got from everyone around him. According to the senior, whether it was from family, friends or teammates, he always knew he had “something to look forward to in the next season and the opportunity to make more memories” with his team.
As Serina kept up with the sport and moved up in the ranks, he realized just how much he could manipulate his moves to get better and better. Even if better high school opponents wouldn’t let him get away with them now.
“I don’t remember much from junior high wrestling, but I do remember how easy it was,” Serina said. “The moves that I could use at that level wouldn’t hold up too well in high school. I took a long time to adjust, as I didn’t take a single shot my freshman year.”
With that adjustment came Serina’s ability to adapt to a situation and learn quickly — something he’s continued to be good at even now.
“Brady has many of the same qualities that I had as a wrestler,” Budman said. “We [both] took losing and turned it into a positive. Brady doesn’t dwell on a loss, but works harder to improve himself. He has beaten many kids that he lost to early in his career or during the season [because of this].”
Serina’s experiences and level of expertise in wrestling makes him the perfect leader Mechanicsburg needs.
One part of Serina that stands out from Wills is the fact that Serina knows how to use his voice. Budman admits that Serina knows how to be more vocal than Wills ever did and has even started leading team meetings and discussing upcoming matches and tournaments.
When the coaching staff can only do so much for a team, there comes a time when an individual wrestler needs to step up.
“Brady has the ability to work with anyone on the team. A good leader has the ability to relate to his teammates and they will listen to him,” Budman said. “Wrestling coaches have a lot of paperwork and other responsibilities that takes away from actually coaching. Brady is someone that the coaching staff can rely on to take over practices. He has been in the program since ninth grade and is in his third year as a captain.
“He understands how we coach and what are expectations are.”
Serina has already set goals for the team and really wants to see a successful squad on an off the mat.
According to Budman, Serina has the understanding that the underclassmen need direction and they’re going to come to him. Since most of these underclassmen have only been wrestling since the seventh grade, Serina’s experience and outlook are an important asset for the team.
Serina’s expertise even goes as far as knowing what it takes outside of the room and the commitment that gets you to be as successful as you can be, whether that be eating healthy and going for long runs when there is no practice.
For instance, according to Budman, one of Serina’s teammates was overweight, so Serina took it upon himself to make up a workout routine and a diet plan for him. He even got the wrestler a membership at a local gym.
Needless to say, the Wildcats have found a selfless leader in Serina.
“I’m excited more than anything,” Serina said about stepping into the spot Wills had, both on and off the mat. “Going from 126 to 152 was a big jump for me, and it’s a different style of wrestling. I’m looking forward to learning and succeeding at this weight class.
“The most important part of being a leader on the wrestling team is being seen as more than just a ‘team captain.’ I always make sure I’m available for normal wrestling advice, as well as helping my teammates outside of the sport with anything they need. I try to make the team more than just a group of guys that happen to play the same sport and create a family mentality.”
“Each team needs individual leaders that can inspire others around them and Brady Serina is doing that,” Budman said.
Personally, Serina is set on being in the top three at every tournament the Wildcats go to and making the state tournament.
The journey will start on Friday at the Top Hat Tournament in Williamsport at 9 a.m.