Third time’s the charm?

For Fredonia’s Dakota Gardner, hopefully the third time will be the charm.

For the third-straight year, the Fredonia sophomore will be competing at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships this weekend at the Times Union Center in Albany.

As an eighth grader, Gardner took sixth place. Last year, he placed second.

“As far as expectations, his mission is to win,” Fredonia coach Joe Santilli said. “He has had an outstanding week of practice. He is right where he needs to be.”

One key advantage Gardner will have is the fact he has been to the Times Union Center twice before and knows the drill when it comes to the festivities beforehand.

“It’s a big arena,” Santilli continued. “I still get chills when they have the parade of champions Friday at 9:30 a.m. I have been attending it since 1975 when it was at Syracuse. It’s still overwhelming to me. There is that excitement. He is comfortable with the environment.”

Working with Gardner has been Chris Conti, who wrestled at the state meet and at the University at Buffalo.

“He has been working with Dakota on revealing certain positions and working on scramble techniques,” Santilli said. “Chris has been a nice help. He has Division I experience.”

Preparation wise, according to Santilli, no one prepares as well as Gardner. And with Gardner focused on each match, and the coaches scouting possible opponents in the later rounds, it will hopefully spell success for the Fredonia wrestler.

“Dakota knows what he needs to do,” Santilli said. “He takes care of his business. I don’t know anyone who trains more focused. He has high expectations and does what he has to do.

“For me, I am putting him in position to work on techniques and keep his cardio up and remind him of a few things,” Santilli continued of his job. “His head is right. He is right for the challenge. I think he will embrace the battle. I’m excited to watch him get after it.”