It's so unassuming. So unobtrusive.

But inside the walls of the old Fleming Furniture building on Hinkleville Road, there's a dimly-lit dojo where Paducah Tilghman's best are sharpening their wrestling might.

What was once a palace for Broyhill mattresses, La-Z-Boy loungers, Serta sleeper sofas and Burrow sectionals now has large practice mats the length of a small gymnasium. Chunks of drywall have been removed, undoubted attrition and collateral damage of the rough-and-tumble that comes with the sport.

On Wednesday afternoon, three days after the 2020 First Region Wrestling Championship in Cadiz, first-year Blue Tornado coach Seth Livingston was pushing his four state qualifiers -- eighth-graders Uriah Virzi (195 pounds), Malachi Rider (138 pounds) and Jack James (113 pounds), and junior David Conner (152 pounds) -- through the ringer.

In the waning moments of practice, sweat pouring from his young stars and their alternate wrestling partners, he went over to a boombox in the corner of the room, turned up Eminem's "'Til I Collapse" to full-tilt, and switched a digital clock mounted on the wall to "2:00."

He wanted to simulate match conditions, and he wanted his young stars to find strength.

"We probably don't tell the kids enough, but they work really, really hard," Livingston said. "They're super dedicated. Wrestling is a tough sport. You have to stay on top of your diet, and if you're not getting the right sleep or the right food in your body, you start getting beat up toward the end of the year.

"These guys are all pretty healthy right now, and they're taking care of themselves."

And they have to.

On Feb. 1, Virzi, Rider and James were in Pikeville wrestling at the Middle School State Championships sponsored by Kentucky USA Wrestling and the Kentucky Folkstyle Wrestling Committee. Virzi and Rider captured titles, and James finished third in his weight class.

This morning, they -- along with Conner -- are at Alltech Arena in Lexington, hoping to follow a successful weigh-in with a lengthy stay in the final, and most important, double-elimination bracket of their season.

"We're all the underdogs," James said. "We're just going to try and go up there and do what we do. Everyone wrestles their best at state."

Conner, the "savvy veteran" of the qualifying quartet, has been here before. A successful sophomore season nearly saw him reach the podium (top eight) at the 2019 KHSAA State Wrestling Tournament, and now he's seeking more.

And especially as a projected 3-seed.

"It's definitely exciting to be a higher seed this year, because this last year I had a tough, tough way to make it to the podium," Conner said. "But, I definitely worked hard through this offseason and the season before the state tournament to make it where I'm at. But I would definitely say being the third seed is exciting, and I'm excited to see how I do with a higher ranking this year.

"How I always looked at regionals, it's just a big stepping stone to obviously get to the state tournament. But I never had my mind set on regionals. I always have that state, state, state (of mind). Going into the regional tournament, I've mentally prepared myself to the point where I know I'm going to make it. I get my brain thinking: 'You're going to make it, you're going to make it.' So, I get what I've got to get done at the regional tournament, and then I'm mentally at the state tournament right away."

Conner also knows exactly what Virzi, Rider and James are dealing with right now. He, too, was a state semifinalist for Tilghman as an eighth grader, then had to flip on a varsity switch in less than three weeks.

"It's a different level," Rider added. "It's like climbing another step. At middle school, I've got a lot of experience. And it's kind of like tossing them like Pee Wee kids. When you get to high school, you've got to work hard for it."

Of the four, James has the longest shot to place in the top eight this weekend -- notched as the 24th seed of the 133-pound class by kentuckywrestling.com. Rider is the 2-seed in 138, while Virzi is the 6-seed in 195.

But staring at seeding, or even slightly relying on it, can be a death knell.

"It's good to not look at your seeds," Virzi said. "Because then you're thinking and preparing for someone to be worse than they are. And that's when you go into your wrestling matches and choke. The most important thing you do is wrestle one match at a time. Don't look forward to getting first in the state, or fourth (or wherever). Wrestle one match. Try to get it done. Move on to your next one."

Added Rider: "If you really look at it, to be a state champ, you've got to beat everyone in your bracket. You know? It's nice to be in a good spot, and we're all in pretty good spots in the bracket. But to be a state champion, you've got to be able to beat everyone."

Perhaps the bigger storyline for Tilghman, and this quartet specifically, is the road ahead. Virzi, Rider and James haven't even walked the halls of their future high school yet, and Conner has one more year.

Tack on several transfers who will qualify for the 2020-21 season and beyond, and this weekend's performance should be a glimpse of the future.

"Top to bottom, next year, we're going to be tough," Livingston warns. "It's going to be a really fun year. Going forward, it's going to be a lot of fun."

2020 KHSAA State Wrestling Meet

Today-Saturday

Alltech Arena

Lexington, Kentucky

Opening Bouts

113 -- Jack James, Paducah Tilghman (2-2) vs. Andres Quintana, Owensboro (36-6)

138 -- Malachi Rider, Paducah Tilghman (2-2) vs. Samuel Grandstaff, Conner (33-5)

152 -- David Conner, Paducah Tilghman (3-1) vs. Jonas Rayman, DeSales (27-12)

195 -- Uriah Virzi, Paducah Tilghman (2-0) vs. Jacob Mann, Dupont Manual (16-8)

The 2020 KHSAA State Wrestling Championships will be broadcast by Trackwrestling and available at KHSAA.tv for subscribers to the NFHS Network.

2020 KHSAA State Wrestling Meet

Today-Saturday

Alltech Arena

Lexington

Opening Bouts

113 -- Jack James, Paducah Tilghman (2-2) vs. Andres Quintana, Owensboro (36-6)

138 -- Malachi Rider, Paducah Tilghman (2-2) vs. Samuel Grandstaff, Conner (33-5)

152 -- David Conner, Paducah Tilghman (3-1) vs. Jonas Rayman, DeSales (27-12)

195 -- Uriah Virzi, Paducah Tilghman (2-0) vs. Jacob Mann, Dupont Manual (16-8)

The 2020 KHSAA State Wrestling Championships will be broadcast by Trackwrestling and available at KHSAA.tv for subscribers to the NFHS Network.

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