KISSIMMEE - In any athletic endeavor, prep athletes must learn to walk before they can run.
Springstead senior wrestler Corey Humphrey embodies that axiom.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Humphrey isn't a particularly gifted athletically, meaning he doesn't possess the ability to stand out by dunking a basketball with either hand.
Nor by standing flat-footed can he jump up over 32 inches in the air.
He doesn't run, say, a 4.6 40-yard dash.
This former offensive lineman is the type of person who would pancake a guy and then help him up.
He isn't a drama king, either.
He is a fine student/athlete and a tremendous role player for the three-time defending Class 2A state champion Eagles' mat squad.
Like all athletes, he's paid his dues.
"The Humphrey story is a good one," recalled Springstead head coach Sal Basile. "When he first got in the (wrestling) room, he'd have a headache, a bellyache, whatever it was not to compete. Once he got through that laziness, he started sticking with it.
"Corey doesn't have all the physical tools some of the other guys he wrestles has," described Basile. "But he has a lot of the intangibles other kids don't have. Corey's a great student in school. He's a yes sir, no sir-type guy. You don't have to worry about him missing class or any behavioral issues.
"Yeah, sometimes, he'll get outmuscled, but he compensates as an extreme technician," added Basile. "He's one of the most technically sound guys in the room. More importantly, once he bought into the room completely, his success on the mats has followed."
Humphrey went from the junior varsity level to part-time starter as a sophomore.
He pinned his first-ever varsity opponent - Orange Park junior Jonathan Carr-Martin - in 53 seconds during the Deltona Duals in 2011-12.
That season he quietly broke in behind a 9-5 campaign and six pins.
He patiently waited his turn for a full-time gig behind senior Will Smith.
Smith finished 17-13 at 220, and concluded the season one agonizing wrestleback victory away from reaching the 48th FHSAA Finals at The Lakeland Center.
After Smith graduated, Humphrey pieced together a fine 2012-13 campaign.
Last winter, in his first six IBTs (individually bracketed tournaments) he and his teammates navigated along one of the toughest schedules Basile could concoct.
Humphrey placed in three events - finishing as high as second and settling for a silver medal at the 23rd Springstead Invitational.
After flattening out at 2-2 at the Flagler County Rotary Invitational, Humphrey placed in three key tournaments down the stretch: at Brandon's Ippolito Invitational (sixth), Class 2A, District 7 at Springstead (second) and 2A-Region II (second).
That run permitted him to reach the FHSAA Finals in Polk County.
At "The Show" he didn't open with a case of the yips. Instead, he stuck Ponte Vedra senior Frank Giodano (2:40).
What has helped motivate Humphrey is what transpired next. Homestead's Desmond Richardson pinned him in 51 seconds.
Next, Palm Bay-Heritage's Darien Hall showed him the door in the double-elimination event with a pin in 57 ticks.
The loss to Hall closed the books on a 29-18 season, highlighted by 19 pins. In all, Humphrey placed in six of the 10 IBTs he participated in 2012-13.
This winter, Humphrey has come into his own.
He opened his third varsity season by doing something he's never done before - placing first at the Wildcat Invitational at Ocala-Forest.
He followed that meet by earning a fourth-place bronze medal in the beefed up 32nd annual Brooksville-Kiwanis Invitational at Hernando High.
At last week's 17th Cougar Invitational in Plant City, only a semifinal loss to Tampa-Robinson's talented senior Kendonte Nichols via a pin (3:53) spoiled a 4-1 run - worth third place.
During this weekend's famed Knockout Christmas Tournament II, Humphrey continued to cook.
At Kissimmee-Osceola High's palatial Kowboy gymnasium, the third-seeded Eagle nearly wrecked the bracket.
On Friday, Humphrey pinned Fort Myers-Riverdale's Jesse Pryor (0:43) and Boca Raton-Olympic Heights' Nico Riger (1:18) before trimming Miami-Columbus' Kyle Mann (6-4).
The win set up the long-awaited rematch in Saturday's semifinals against No. 2-seeded Hall.
This time, Humphrey solved Hall via a decision (5-3).
No. 1-seeded Walton (Ga.) junior Eric Smith spoiled Humphrey's bid at a second gold medal this season via a pin (3:55).
Smith's win did not take away from Humphrey's career-high fourth straight IBT placing.
Humphrey (19-4 this winter) enters next weekend's 24th Springstead Invite at 57-27 (68 percent) lifetime. The last time he pieced together three straight IBT placings, he reached states.
This time, he's shooting for not only his first-ever gold medal at home, but possibly the event's Outstanding Wrestler Award. Standing in the way is Hernando High's ultra-talented senior Jesse Gaudin.
Gaudin, last year's Springstead Invite champion at 220, has owned Humphrey. He's beaten him in all six previous encounters. Interestingly, the closest match was the last meeting in the Kiwanis finals (5-3).
"I thought going into the (Osceola) finals that everything seemed right for Corey (Humphrey) to win," detailed Coach Basile. "In fact, I thought he was a little too overconfident.
"I think Corey believed in his heart of hearts he could win this. Everything he did up to the finals, he did phenomenally," described Coach Basile. "And then he made one bad move. I feel bad for him that things didn't work out."
On Humphrey's current ceiling, "He doesn't have one," replied Coach Basile. "I put Corey in the same boat as Buddha (2012 state champion Sean Redman). Neither one of those guys had a lot of success early, but the more committed they got, the greater the success.
"Right now, Corey is starting to see what he's capable of doing every time he steps out there," insisted Basile. "The key is putting together the best three tournaments he can have at the end of the season."
By the numbers: Springstead's Corey Humphrey (2011-14)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YEAR W L .PCT PINS
2011-12 9 5 .643 06
2012-13 29 18 .617 19
2013-14* 19 4 .826 10
TOTALS 57 27 .679 35
* Denotes state qualifier.
By the numbers: Humphrey's Career IBT Results
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YEAR SITE W L .PCT PINS PL
2011-12 Kiwanis Inv. 2 2 .500 2 -
2011-12 St. Cloud Inv. 2 2 .500 1 -
2012-13 Cougar Inv. 0 2 .000 - -
2012-13 Kiwanis Inv. 4 1 .800 3 3rd
2012-13 St. Cloud Inv. 0 2 .000 - -
2012-13 Knockout 3 2 .600 0 4th
2012-13 Springstead Inv. 2 1 .667 2 2nd
2012-13 Flagler Rotary Inv. 2 2 .500 2 -
2012-13 Brandon Ippolito 3 3 .500 2 6th
2012-13 2A-7 Tourney 2 1 .667 1 2nd
2012-13 2A-II Tourney 3 1 .750 2 2nd
2012-13 2A State Tourney 1 2 .333 1 -
2013-14 Wildcat Inv. 2 0 1.000 2 1st
2013-14 Kiwanis Inv. 4 2 .667 2 4th
2013-14 Cougar Inv. 4 1 .800 4 3rd
2013-14 Knockout 4 1 .800 2 2nd
TOTALS (16) 38 25 .603 26