Davante Andujar felt like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
With a 3A state championship on the line, the fate of Jay M. Robinson's wrestling title hopes last year came down to Andujar against a two-time defending state champion.
Wrestling up one weight class, from 135 to 140 pounds, Andujar came through in one of the biggest moments of his life, winning 7-6, despite having the match delayed three times because of excessive bleeding from the bridge of his nose.
The victory not only gave his Bulldogs a 36-32 win and the first state title in school history, but also sparked Andujar's confidence in his own ability.
"I think I learned a lot about myself just in that match," said Andujar. "I had to dig deep and I learned that I can wrestle under pressure and I even like wrestling under pressure."
Andujar has carried that confidence into his senior season at Robinson, where he said he hopes to cap off a standout career with the one championship that has eluded him: an individual state championship.
"That's what every high school kid in this sport is going after," said Robinson wrestling coach Dave Parisi.
Andujar, 17, has worked tirelessly to get to the level of state championship contender.
After starting the sport in seventh-grade at Harrisburg Middle, Andujar has transformed himself from a virtual newcomer to a seasoned veteran with the help of Parisi and the Arrichion Wrestling Club, with whom he competes in national tournaments year-round.
Wrestling is also a family tradition for Andujar. He has learned many invaluable lessons and techniques from his father, Chris, who was also a standout high school wrestler.
Andujar's mother, Melissa, said that played a key role in her son's interest in the sport.
"But he quickly began to love the sport himself," she said. "He has worked very hard to get where he is now."
Andujar started off the season 50-3 and is ranked No. 3 in the state in his 140-pound weight class by retrorankings.com.
Andujar, who was 174-56 in his career at Robinson as of last week, is on a roll after helping the Bulldogs to another South Piedmont Conference (SPC) regular season and tournament title earlier this month with an MVP performance in the SPC tournament. Andujar was also named SPC Wrestler of the Year for his accomplishments this season.
But while he is excited about those achievements, the next two weekends will decide whether he leaves Robinson as a regional and state champion, something he has worked for the last four years.
Andujar and his Robinson teammates will compete at the 3A Midwest Regional Saturday at Mount Pleasant before going onto the individual state championshhip meet in Greensboro Feb. 25-26.
While Andujar is considered amongst the favorites at regionals and states, he will come up against the other contenders including Brandon Hernandez (Jacksonville) , Michael Newby (Havelock) and Chad Mullins of Marvin Ridge.
"Now is the time that everyone has to step up and be at their best," said Andujar. "I have to go out and do my job. Hopefully, that means I can win a state (title)."
Andujar also hopes to continue his wrestling career in college. He is currently considering Campbell, UNC Greensboro and Gardner-Webb.
Andujar said the Bulldogs are at the top of his list at the moment. He's under consideration for an academic scholarship at Gardner-Webb because of his 3.7 grade-point average at Robinson.
While his future is bright, on and off the mat, Andujar and his family hope he can finish his time at Robinson in style.
"Davante is someone who sets a goal and then does everything he can to achieve that," said Melissa.
"The goal of being a state champion is at his fingertips. We all believe he can do it."