As a youngster Sebring senior Michael Polatty envisioned himself as a basketball player. But eventually he realized that perhaps he wasn't cut out for a life on the hardwood, especially after being cut from teams in both the eighth and ninth grades.
"If there were 12 people on a team, I was No. 13," Polatty said.
But getting cut from the ninth-grade team may be one of the best things that ever happened to Polatty, as he switched to wrestling, a sport that quickly agreed with him.
"I like being rough and rowdy," he said. "That's all I did as a kid and I just fit in."
Polatty will have four more years to be rough and rowdy on the wrestling mat, as he will be attending Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., to continue with his wrestling career.
Polatty looked at several other schools, including Shorter College in Georgia and Spartanburg Methodist College, but decided Cumberland, a four-year NAIA school, was the logical choice.
"It just made sense," Polatty said. "It was a great fit."
Sebring wrestlers are no stranger to Cumberland University, as Blue Streaks assistant coach Blake Germaine attended school there, and was supportive of the school.
Fellow Sebring assistant coach Dillon McGovern has no doubts that Polatty can be successful in college.
"If he pays attention to his new coaches and shows the same devotion that he did this past year, I think he'll do great," McGovern said. "He's one of those kids who calls you at 7 a.m. on Sunday and says 'coach, I want to wrestle and I have two kids who want to wrestle with me.' It's hard to say no to something like that."
Polatty, who also was one of Sebring's top cross country runners, will join a Cumberland wrestling team that has a definite Florida flavor, as 10 of this year's freshmen and sophomores hailed from the Sunshine State.
The school is coming off a solid season, placing 18th in the nation at the NAIA level and having three NAIA All-Americans.
McGovern said Polatty's persistence is his greatest attribute and one that should serve him well in the years to come.
"He'll do anything you ask him to and do it 100 percent every time," McGovern said.
Polatty said his journey to Cumberland wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of McGovern, Germaine and Sebring head coach Josh Miller, as well as his parents for keeping on him on track academically and for getting him to weekend tournaments.
As one who didn't start wrestling until his freshman year, Polatty has definitely undergone a great transformation on the wrestling mat. But in some ways, he hasn't really changed that much.
"I've been wrestling with him for about three years," McGovern said. "When I first met him he was a complete goofball. Now, he's a wrestler and a goofball."