LOS BANOS -- The numbers on the sleeve of his letterman jacket tell a unique and personal story, and for many in the wrestling community the patches are familiar.
Most of them, anyway.
They're Greg Hartman's weight classes over the last four years. Only one stands out as odd. The first one: "000."
The Los Banos senior didn't wrestle his first year on campus.
Not because he didn't want to. He had spent years on youth circuits, in team caravans, traveling to the best tournaments around, preparing for this moment: the high school wrestling experience.
"It was always about high school," he said.
But the high school experience also requires wrestlers to carry their weight in the classroom. Not just on the mat.
Just months into his freshman year, Hartman was academically ineligible -- hence, the "000" -- and he wore the shame and embarrassment as a badge on his letterman.
A stern reminder of how bad things can be.
"I didn't want my sleeve to be empty. It kind of meant something to me," Hartman said. "I made bad choices, and shouldn't have made those choices."
"He had to battle back to stay on track, eligibility wise," Los Banos coach Josh Adams said of Hartman, now an A and B student. "He's shown a lot maturity in getting that stuff done."
That warrior spirit was on full display this season, as Hartman -- the Sun-Star's Wrestler of the Year -- moved to the upper echelon in his weight class in the state of the California.
The senior, who shaved off his signature curly locks before the CIF State Championships, finished top-12 in the 145-pound class -- one win shy of a medal.
"Bittersweet is the perfect way to put it," Hartman said. "It sucks really bad, but it also feels like a great accomplishment that I've come to. It could have been a lot better, but then again, it could have been a lot worse.
"I didn't lose to any chumps. I feel like I was right there on that level. I was either the best or with the best."
Hartman returned to the state championships for a second time, punching his ticket to Bakersfield after winning the Central California Conference title, Sac-Joaquin Section Division I south title and placing third at the Masters tournament.
A medal at state seemed well within his reach, but a mistake in his second match nearly derailed his hopes.
Hartman tried to play a cat-and-mouse game with Foothill's He-Man, Derek Rizo, and was dropped and pinned in 1:01.
"I was livid, so mad at myself that I got stuck in the first round," Hartman said. "That hadn't happened in a long time."
Like that, The Battler was back in the fire.
Never one to emote, Hartman quickly dissected his loss to Rizo, playing back the action with teammate Kendal Klette and assistant coach Jordan Erickson.
Then he found a chair away from Los Banos' camp and waited for his next match -- the way a rocket waits for lift-off.
"He's just a real competitor. He's not real slick and not the hardest working guy, but he has this competitive spirit to push through matches," Adams said. "He has the experience of battling back.
"If you can learn to battle back, you're going to be doing things at this level. That's what he did. You saw that after he took that loss to Rizo."
Hartman put himself back in medal position with two convincing victories to close the opening day.
He put out Atascadero junior Elijah Jackson, 8-5, and then pinned Sanger's Dylan Rodriguez.
A 10-4 loss to Bakersfield freshman Coleman Hammond eventually ended Hartman's season and career, but the laid-back senior harbors no regrets.
He finished 44-9, was named the Pinmaster at the Provart Duals and captured the Bulldog classic and Westside Invitational.
Seven of his losses came to 2010 state-placers.
"I think I had a pretty good high school career. I'm proud of myself and my accomplishments, but there are some things I'm not so proud of," Hartman said. "Overall, I guess you could say I did a little more good than bad. ... It's been a learning experience."
He has the patches to prove it.