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One of York County’s top lightweight wrestlers has made his college decision.

Northeastern High School junior Cole Wilson has made a verbal commitment to compete at the NCAA Division I level for Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina.

Wilson, who has a 102-13 career scholastic record, announced his decision recently on his Instagram account.

"I've been going there since my freshman year (for camps) and I feel comfortable there," Wilson said. "I took visits to other colleges, like Kent State and American, but Campbell felt most like home to me and I think I fit in most at Campbell.

"I got along really well with all of the wrestlers on the team and all of the coaches. I believe those coaches can put me in the best position possible for my college career."

Kolat will be his head coach: One of those coaches is a legend in Pennsylvania wrestling circles. Cary Kolat has been the Camels' head coach since the 2014-15 season.

Pennsylvania wrestling fans know all about Kolat, who went 137-0 during his scholastic career at Jefferson-Morgan High School in Green County en route to winning four straight state championships.

Kolat then wrestled at both Penn State and Lock Haven, becoming a four-time All-American and a two-time national champion. He also wrestled for the U.S. Olympic team in Sydney, Australia, in 2000.

That resume earned Kolat induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Still, it's not Kolat, the Hall of Famer, who attracted Wilson to Campbell. It's Kolat, the person, who persuaded Wilson to become a Camel. 

"I didn't choose Campbell for the name of Cary Kolat," Wilson said. "(I chose it because) he's just a great guy and I get along with him really well."

Last season under Kolat, Campbell finished 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Southern Conference. The Camels won the Southern Conference Tournament crown for the second time in three years and Kolat was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year. The team had six qualifiers for the NCAA Division I Tournament.

Wilson will attempt to help the Camels continue that success.

Learning from adversity: In Wilson, Kolat is getting a wrestler who has finished as a District 3 Class 3-A runner-up twice and finished third once, losing to Manheim Central’s Will Betancourt each season.

The Bobcat standout qualified for the PIAA state tournament in each of his three years at Northeastern. He finished fourth in the state tournament as a sophomore, but lost both of his state matches in 2019, capping what he called an "up-and-down" season.

Wilson said the death of his great-grandfather the week before the state tournament may have contributed to his struggles at the PIAA event.

"That whole week was emotional and really stressful," Wilson said. "I really wasn't in the right mindset for states."

He said he learned a lesson from that about dealing with adversity.

"I just learned that you have to keep your blinders on and focus what you've been working on all season," he said. 

Father will no longer be his head coach: At Northeastern, Wilson was 28-4 as a 106-pound freshman, 39-5 as a 113-pound sophomore and 35-4 as a 120-pound junior.

During those first three years, Wilson has been coached by his father, Dan. As a senior, however, Cole will have a new head coach. Dan has decided to sit back and watch his son wrestle.

"Having my Dad as coach was nice, but having a little separation is good, too," Cole said.

Cole said he will receive about a 50% scholarship as a freshman, with an opportunity for that percentage to go up as his career progresses. Because the NCAA only allocates 9.9 scholarships for each Division I wrestling program, it's fairly unusual for a wrestler to get a full scholarship.

Early decision: Cole's commitment to Campbell will not become official until he signs a National Letter of Intent in November. 

"I made the decision now because it's a stress-reliever," Cole said. "After my visit, I was dead set that Campbell was the place I wanted to be. I wanted to get it out of the way early."

Cole said he expects to spend his entire Campbell career in the 125-pound class. He's been told he'll have good chance to start as a freshman before red-shirting as a sophomore, which is a fairly common practice in D-I wrestling.

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.

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