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Pressures off

After collapsing under the pressure of high expectations as a junior, Shane Licari is ready to have some fun

As physical as the sport of wrestling looks, Estacada's Shane Licari says it's 80-percent mental. Coming from a kid who has made it to the state tournament three consecutive years, including a second place finish as a sophomore, he's a pretty credible source.

Licari was born and raised in Estacada. As he enters his senior season as a wrestler, his eyes are set on the state title. For Licari, the road to this point has been anything but uneventful.

As a freshman, Licari wrestled in the 112-pound weight class and advanced to the state tournament, but failed to place.

Swelling with confidence, Licari moved up to 119-pounds as a sophomore and again entered the state tournament. That time, everything went his way.

'Wrestling is 80-percent mental and 20-percent physical,' he said. 'I just caught on to the mental part and got on fire. After losing to the defending state champion early in the year, I won every match up until the state championship.'

Staring across from him was a senior who had already beaten him twice before, but with the state title on the line, Licari knew he had a shot.

'I wrestled really well and I was winning by four points in the second round but then he was able to pin me,' Licari said. 'It was the coolest experience of my life though, walking out there with everyone looking right at me.'

Despite the disappointment that came with a second-place finish, Licari's junior year was full of expectations. With all eyes on him and pressure mounting, Licari finished the year as the No. 1 wrestler at 125 pounds in the state, earning him the top seed in the state tournament.

Then things unraveled.

After winning his first two matches of the tournament, the losses started piling up.

'In the semi-finals I was beating my opponent, but in the third round I hesitated a bit and he pinned me,' he said.

Licari would also lose his two remaining matches, finishing in a disappointing sixth place.

'I had a lot of pressure on me last year because I felt I had to win state and it just got to my head because I was thinking about it too much,' he said. 'When you think about it too much, you forget to just go out and wrestle.'

Entering his senior season, Licari took a new approach to off-season training.

'I just took my mind off of wrestling and didn't think about it,' he said. 'Wrestling gets me really stressed out so I've never made it a year-long thing. A four month season is pretty rough.'

Licari enters this season as the No. 4 ranked wrestler in the 126-pound weight class, but his focus this year is on being a leader.

Instead of feeling the pressure, Licari is focusing on having fun this year and enjoying his last year of high school wrestling. But don't let that fool you into thinking he doesn't have goals.

'My goal is to win state and I'm going to do what it takes to achieve that,' he said.

After this season, Licari has plans to attend Arizona State University, where he will study mechanical aeronautical engineering.