There was a time just two years ago when Jacori Teemer was unsure about his true potential.
Teemer had just completed the seventh grade at Long Beach Middle School and was spending his summer training for the upcoming wrestling season -- hopefully on the Long Beach High School varsity team.
Lying face up on his bunk bed, the young Teemer wondered about his potential and how far wrestling could take him.
His father, Alan Teemer, came in to have a motivational talk.
Jacori remembers the conversation well. "My dad said, 'Jacori, what are you expecting out of this? What are your goals for yourself?'
"I told him I was aiming for a county title."
Teemer's target was ambitious for an eighth-grader -- only one junior high school wrestler had ever won a Nassau Division I title. But his dad saw much more in him, asking his son if there were anything else in his sights.
"When he asked, I just shrugged," Teemer recalled.
Alan said, "When I first told him that he had it in him to compete for state and national championships, he looked at me in disbelief."
"I actually didn't believe that I could win states," Teemer, then 14, said. "Not at all."
Teemer surprised himself with a historical run at the state tournament last February.
He used an ankle pick and a cradle to pin Adam Busiello of Eastport-South Manor in 4:36 to earn the 99-pound state title. Teemer became Long Island's first eighth-grader to win a state wrestling crown.
Some, like his father, saw the early success coming. Former Long Beach coach Paul Gillespie, who now coaches at Wantagh, watched Teemer as an 8-year-old competitor in a kids tournament.
"He told me that Jacori was going to be a great wrestler," Alan said. "And to make sure that he pursued it."
Gillespie remembers the first time he laid eyes on Teemer and thought he had a gift.
"After being in the sport long enough, you acquire good judgment," Gillespie said. "With some young kids, you can just see the gifted ability. Jacori had it."
But getting Teemer excited about wrestling wasn't easy. As a 7-year-old, his first love was basketball. If it weren't for his youth wrestling coach Miguel Rodriguez, Teemer might still be on the hard court. Rodriguez made a deal with Teemer. If Rodriguez could beat him in a one-on-one basketball game, then he would have to try wrestling.
"If I win, you try wrestling. If you win, you can forget about wrestling," Rodriguez said. "You can probably guess who won."
The rest is history. Teemer wrestled for Rodriguez's youth team and then for the Long Beach Gladiators, a travel program for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. "Miguel took me under his wing," Teemer said. "He's like another dad. He made me realize how good I was at wrestling."
Teemer, 28-0 this season at 106 pounds with a 74-2 career varsity record, has the makings to become Long Island's first five-time state champion. Jesse Jantzen of Shoreham-Wading River is the only Long Islander to win four state titles.
"He's a real fun-loving kid. He likes to joke around," Long Beach coach Ray Adams said. "But when he gets on the mat, he's able to completely focus. He's become incredibly confident in himself."