Despite spraining a left shoulder joint in a wresting semifinal at the State Open, Zach Maxwell won that match and then the championship at 195 pounds.
"Think about it; he wrestled with one good shoulder," Southington coach Derek Dion said. "He never said a word about it until afterward. Amazing."
Two months earlier, the Southington football team was down 14 points in the Class LL championship game. But as a wrestler would say, "Unless you're pinned, you can win."
The Blue Knights got off the mat, so to speak, with a 38-6 scoring fury in the second half to defeat Fairfield Prep 52-34 for the title. Maxwell, often double-teamed at defensive end, finished with five solo tackles and eight overall tackles.
"When we got to the playoffs, people talked about how strong the downstate teams were, but not much about us," he said.
Plenty can be said about Maxwell, The Courant's Male Athlete of the Year in high school sports.
"What it entails to achieve this, well, I'm really excited and appreciate the honor," Maxwell said.
Maxwell was named The Courant's Defensive Player of the Year in the fall as he made the All-Courant first team in football. He also was a two-time Class LL and State Open wrestling champion and a two-time member of the All-Courant wrestling team
Maxwell ranked second in the state with 17 sacks. He did this at 205 pounds, with opponents often outweighing him by 50 to 60 pounds.
Agility and strength were two of Maxwell's primary physical attributes. He ranked second on the team in rushing with 452 yards.
"He was the fastest player on our team," coach Mike Drury said.
The Blue Knights, led by players such as Stephen Barmore, Zach Jamele, Matt Koczera, Tyler Hyde, Alex Jamele, Maxwell and his brother, Matt, not only won the LL title but finished No. 3 in The Courant's final state ratings.
Still, Southington's accomplishments were not without challenges. The team's 49-37 loss to Hall-West Hartford in October saw the Blue Knights squander a 21-0 lead.
"There were doubters outside the team who thought we weren't that good," Maxwell said. "That loss made us refocus. We still had the opportunity to do something great."
Southington (12-1) did not lose the rest of the season and outscored Norwich Free Academy, Ridgefield and Fairfield Prep in the playoffs by an average score of 49.7-16.
"Zach was one of those players a coach might only have the honor of coaching once in a career," Drury said.
After football, Maxwell returned to the wrestling mat. He was hampered by an ankle injury midway through the season and sustained the sprained left sternoclavicular joint in that State Open semifinal decision over Justin Pronovost of Terryville.
"It's just you out there," said Maxwell. "It's technique, strength and heart that put you on top."
After defeating Simsbury's Jacob Feldman 7-3 in the final, Maxwell won his first match in the New England championships but lost to eventual champion Joe Chimelski of New Hampshire 6-4 in a quarterfinal.
For now, Maxwell will concentrate on football at U.S. Military Academy Prep School in West Point, N.Y., where he'll report July 21. After completing a full academic year there, he's scheduled to be a plebe at West Point in 2015.
"I've always liked the intensity, the excitement, the dynamics of football more than other sports," he said.
Dion said that if Maxwell, who also ran the 100 meters and the 4x100 relay for the Southington track team this spring, had concentrated solely on wrestling in high school, "I think he'd be top three nationally and going to a top Big Ten program."
Last summer, Maxwell determined his post-high school destination at the U.S. Military Academy football camp.
"Soaking in everything just reinforced that I've always wanted to serve," he said. "I felt it's something I had to do in my life."
To prepare for U.S. Military Academy Prep School and its football team, Maxwell has increased his weightlifting workouts. Last season, he lifted 335 pounds, squatted 405 and power-cleaned 285. Today, those numbers are 360, 425 and 315.
"He's just a rare natural athlete who could be the best in any sport if he concentrated on it," Dion said. "Bottom line is, never underestimate this young man."