SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — NCAA Wrestling All-American Kyle Conel returned to his roots on Friday to urge students of Ashtabula Area City Schools to shake the “underdog” label and find their dreams.

Conel, a 2014 Lakeside High School graduate, recently finished third in the 197 pound weight class at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Cleveland while representing Kent State University.

Students from Lakeside High School and Lakeside Junior High School heard a message of hope amidst darkness as well. He also spoke at the After School Discovery program on Friday afternoon at the Lakeside elementary school campus.

“Two years ago I tried to take my own life. I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw,” Conel said at Lakeside Junior High School. He said his attempt was obviously unsuccessful and he was able to get help from counselors and a larger support team.

“I had an amazing support system,” he said of his counselors, coaches, family and girlfriend.

“I had to take a mental health break,” Conel said of the year he took off from wrestling to work on becoming a better student and gain a better understanding of his own feelings.

Conel said to see the heart breaking effects the

suicide attempt had on 

family members helped push him to never do something like that and hurt those close to him.

“I don’t want that to happen to any of you,” Conel said urging

students to find

someone to talk to if they are unhappy

and need a way out of a dark place. “There are teachers, there are

psychologists,” he

said.

“I bottled everything up and eventually it boiled over,” Conel said.

As time went on, Conel reworked his

academic pursuits toward a degree in computer science and eventually the opportunity to return to the sport he loves became possible.

“Wrestling came back into my life when I least expected it,” he said. Conel said his only goal was to finish the year healthy.

The return to the mat was not easy. “There were times when I just broke down and cried,” he said.

Conel urged students to not let others view of them hinder their work ethic and goals. “We (Lakeside) kind of take on an ‘underdog’ role when it comes to academics and sports. What I have learned is we can block all that out. I focus on the positive. You need to focus on the positive,” he said.

“How many people have felt like an underdog?” Conel asked the seventh and eighth grade students in the Lakeside Junior High School gymnasium.

Many raised their hands. “Take a goal and focus on it and work towards it,” Conel told students who broke into several ovations during the talk.

“I want to work as hard as I can towards any goal no matter what,” Conel told students on the importance of staying focused.

Conel told students to find someone to talk to if they need help and even offered to chat on Facebook if people needed help. “I am proud to say I am Lakeside born and raised,” he said.

Conel is scheduled to graduate with his computer science degree and continue pursuit of a masters degree in business during the next two years.

Lakeside Junior High School Principal Scott Anservitz said it is great for the students to “see what they can become.” “Nothing was given to Kyle. We want our kids to believe they can (succeed) too,” he said.

Conel led a push up and core exercise competition that got the students fired up.

Malachi Donahue,

a seventh grade

member of the Lakeside Junior High wrestling team, was one of the last to crumble during the abdominal challenge and enjoyed Conel’s message. “It was great. He inspired a lot of people,” he said.

Mia Milano, a cheerleader, won the “core contest” to the delight of her fellow cheerleaders and said she enjoyed Conel’s message and the importance of never giving up on yourself.