With sectionals only a few days away, the top wrestlers in the York-Adams League are hoping to embark on a month-long journey to the individual state tournament in March.
Northeastern High School junior Cole Wilson (29-1) participated in the state tournament in each of his first two seasons, including a fourth-place Class 3-A finish in 2018.
This season, the 120-pounder has higher aspirations. He wants to get to the state title match.
“I need to go one step at a time,” Wilson said. “I want to win sectionals and go from there. But looking ahead, I want a district title and then go on to be in the state finals.”
Northeastern head coach Dan Wilson, who is Cole's father, said his son has worked hard the past few seasons to get to this point. Now, he said, it’s about “believing in himself.”
“He needs to wrestle for three periods, stay in good position and keep scoring points,” Dan Wilson said. “He’s got the training, the conditioning and the technique.”
Wilson’s improvement: Cole Wilson said his loss in the third-place match to Hempfield’s Kyle Burkholder at 113 pounds last year has driven him to work harder.
“It has most definitely motivated me,” he said. “I was having trouble with weight cuts and managing a good diet, but I’ve gotten better at that as I’ve gotten more mature. I’ve been lifting a lot, gaining muscle and doing more conditioning.”
Dan Wilson said the competition Cole Wilson faces in the offseason helps him in the high school postseason.
“Not to look past the school season, but Cole wrestles all year 'round. He’s wrestling nationally-recognized kids in the summer all the time,” Dan Wilson said. “The offseason wrestling helps build success in high school wrestling.”
Wrestling competitively, Cole Wilson said, has made him more comfortable in the postseason. He believes he’s primed for an excellent showing this year after growing and developing the last two seasons.
“I think it’s going to make me more comfortable knowing that I’ve been there before,” he said. “I used to get worked up before matches if I wrestled a good kid. But now I’m just calm when I go out and wrestle. I know the kids are the same as me and put on their shoes the same as me. We all have an equal opportunity to win.”
Wilson’s 2018-19 campaign: Wilson is 29-1 this season with 18 pins. His only loss was a 6-1 decision on Dec. 29 against Ryan Crookham from Notre Dame-Green Pond, who is the No. 3-ranked 120-pound high school wrestler in the nation, according to Intermat.
Cole Wilson won't have to worry about Crookham in the state tournament. Notre Dame-Green Pond is a 2-A school.
Since the loss, he’s won 17 straight bouts, including impressive victories over Bishop McDevitt’s Nate Smith, Biglerville’s Blake Showers and Scranton’s Robert Zelinski. Showers finished seventh in the state at 126 pounds last year, and Smith finished seventh in the state at 120.
Cole Wilson is at 96 career wins (against just 10 losses) and will likely reach the 100-win mark this postseason.
Dan Wilson said Cole Wilson’s strength is his ability to take advantage of his opponent’s mistakes.
“Cole has always been a pinner from his days of youth wrestling,” Dan Wilson said. “He’s always had that tenacity to go out and pin guys. When you have someone on their back, you need to get that pin because you may not have them there again.”
Other Bobcats: The Bobcats haven’t competed since Jan. 23, and Dan Wilson said the time off has given the team more time to practice. He said the team did mostly conditioning during its first week off and focused on technique the past week.
Alongside Cole Wilson, Dan Wilson said he expects juniors Tommy Gradwell and Ryan Hussey to also make runs in the postseason.
Gradwell is 20-10 this season and will compete at 113 pounds, while Hussey is 15-14 and will wrestle at 132 pounds.
“They both wrestled up and took some losses to bigger kids during the season,” Dan Wilson said. “We want to move them onto districts.”
Northeastern will compete in sectionals starting at 5 p.m. Friday at South Western. The action continues on Saturday, with finals expected to start around 4 or 4:30 p.m.
The other 3-A schools at the South Western sectional are Central York, Dallastown, Dover, Gettysburg, New Oxford, Red LIon, South Western, Spring Grove, Susquehannock, Waynesboro, West York, York Suburban and York Tech.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.