CYPRESS – Dressed in a white long sleeve shirt with a silver UH logo on the right side and a plethora of medals hanging around his neck, Corey Harris watched from the front row.
He watched his son Chidozie Nwankwo finish his high school career with one last gold as a win in the Class 5A, 285-pound State Championship match capped his stellar career.
Moments after the win, Chidozie came over and the two embraced. It was an emotional hug. One that had a lot of meaning to the both of them.
"The hug was me saying well done," Harris said while leaning forward on the rail in front of his seat and holding back tears. "It was saying let's close the chapter on this book and open up next chapter, which is going off to college and pursuing your collegiate career and becoming even more of an impact in this city and to your family.
"It was me saying thank you God for giving me the honor and pleasure of raising my children and being in these beautiful experiences that he and our kids have brought us along the way. I'm just proud of him. There are no other words. Just proud of him."
Chidozie added: "It was emotional for the both of us. I know he loves me. He wants the best for me."
BREAKING: @ChidozieNwankw wins the Class 5A 285 pound State Championship. He is signed to @UHCougarFB | Nwankwo finishes career with two state titles
Sophomore: State Champ
Senior: State Champ#UILState @Fosterwrestling @FosterFootball @KPRC2RandyMc pic.twitter.com/rrn8aKdCYY
— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) February 23, 2020
Ironically, that hug may never have happened had it not been for Chidozie having a change of heart following football season.
Chidozie told reporters following the win, he originally wasn't going to wrestle this year.
A tough loss in the state title match a year ago really took a toll on him. It took a while for him to process it and provided a life-teaching moment for the father and son.
"This is a flat, this is a bump in the road that you have to overcome," Harris said about that loss. "The only way you're going to overcome it is to become a champion again. So, today solidified everything that we raised him to understand about falling and getting back up."
It was about a week after football season that Chidozie ultimately made the decision to wrestle his senior year.
"Last year he was doing it to stay in shape for football season," Harris said. "This year, he wanted to win. He wanted to come out here and prove to everybody. 'Hey man, I'm the champion'."
Chidozie would get one more chance to stand atop the podium inside the Berry Center come February.
"He easily could have just focused on football," Foster wrestling coach Scott Kimball said. "He could have walked away, and nobody would have blinked an eye. But he had something to prove this year. He wanted to prove it, not only to everybody but to himself. So, this season he came out and did this for him and nobody else."
Chidozie entered the UIL State Wrestling Tournament with a 22-0 mark for the season and 98 career victories on the mat.
The first win on Friday was a fall in 35 seconds. The second was a 9-2 victory, which pushed him into Saturday's state semifinals. In the morning on Saturday, he won his match with a fall in 3:07, which thrust him into the title bout.
It was a highly competitive match with Midlothian's Marshall Hodges. Early on Chidozie led 1-0 before it was tied up. On two occasions, Chidozie threw Hodges out of bounds but officials ruled each of those neutral position, which meant no points.
With time running down, overtime looking like a reality, Chidozie pushed Hodges to the edge again. And with two seconds left, a stall was called against Hodges, giving Chidozie the 2-1 lead with no time left.
THE MOMENT: @ChidozieNwankw throws his opponent out of the ring for a point to take a 2-1 lead with two seconds remaining in the match. Unbelievable moment. @FosterFootball @Fosterwrestling @FosterHSNews @KPRC2RandyMc @KPRC2AdamW @KPRC2 @MaxPreps @uiltexas pic.twitter.com/24nm1cLL0L
— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) February 23, 2020
"I get to say I finished wrestling with a first-place medal in state. Now, I get to pursue my football career."
If Chidozie would have decided not to wrestle, the senior said it would have been a decision that later in life he would have regretted.
"Let's say in 10 years from now, I would look back and I would have been like 'I should have wrestled my last year in high school'," he said. "'Lord knows what I could have done'."
Chidozie finishes his high school career as a four-time District Champion; three-time Regional Champion; four-time state placer; two-time state champion and one-time runner-up.
His final record – 102-5.
"He's got a storybook career in the wrestling field," Kimball said. "People are going to be talking about him for a long time."
Chidozie added: "I learned a lot from wrestling. It helped me grow as a man. It helped my stamina. It helped me push my mind farther than I thought it could go. I love wrestling for that."