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Like father, like son

By Staff
Rico Elliott hopes to win title like dad did
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
Stan Elliott knows the elation of victory. Having the referee raise his hand in triumph after a tough match on the mat. Elliott lived the scene dozens of times, but one of those wins stands out over all the other victories in his career. More than two decades have passed since Elliott's hands were raised in victory as a state wrestling champion on Feb. 19, 1983.
Elliott was the second Hartselle High grappler to ever win an individual state title when he took the 126-pound title for the Tigers in Oxford 22 years ago.
This weekend Elliott will be back at the scene of his greatest athletic achievement watching to see if his son Rico will feel the elation of victory in the very same city the elder Elliott was crowned a state champion.
Rico is currently the second-ranked wrestler in the state in the 103-pound division. He's favored to win the sectional title this Saturday at Oxford High School as Hartselle hopes to win its fifth straight 5A North Sectional crown.
"If I win a sectional title in Oxford, it'll be like d/ja vu," Hartselle freshman wrestler Rico said. "It would make it more special because my dad won his state title there."
The elder Elliott thinks his son is a better grappler than he was as a freshman.
"I won 24 matches as a ninth grader," Stan said. "He's already won 37 matches this season.
"He's better than I was at that age. I think I was more mat wise, but he might be faster. He will be a lot better as a senior than I was."
According to Stan, the lessons Rico has learned in defeat have helped the younger Elliott excel.
"I tell him not to get the big head," Stan said. "But a few weeks ago in a tournament, he got a little cocky. He felt he would breeze through his next opponent and he didn't warm up properly. He didn't get sweaty.
"I told him to warm up right and not take the next guy lightly. Well, he lost and it brought him down to earth. He's won every match since then. As a parent you don't want to see your son lose, but the loss really helped him."
The current winning streak has helped Rico claim the No. 2 ranking in the state in his weight class and makes him the favorite for the North Sectional title and a berth in the state championships Jan. 28-29.
"He's top ranked in his weight class in the North," Stan said. "The kid (Di Withers) ranked No. 1 is from Benjamin Russell and they're in the South Sectional.
"If Rico takes care of business at sectionals, those two can meet in the state championships."
The elder Elliott probably won't sleep well Friday night.
He admits to being nervous before each of Rico's matches. He oftentimes gets up at 3:30-4 a.m. on the days his son wrestles.
"I have the butterflies," Stan said. "He says he's not nervous. I get up early and walk the floor before each of his matches. I just can't sleep." Stan thinks his son can win a state title this year and enjoy the same rush of emotion he felt 22 years ago.
But according to both father and son, Rico isn't planning on stopping there.
"I want to at least win two state titles," Rico said. "I want to be able to come home and brag a little bit to my dad and tell him I'm the best wrestler in the family."
"I hope he's right," Stan said. "I want him to be a better wrestler than I was."