Mitchell Cole has come a long way in his wrestling career.
The closing seconds of the Ashwaubenon senior’s preliminary match at the WIAA individual state tournament on Thursday was an embodiment of that.
After leading throughout, Cole fell behind with less than 30 seconds remaining but battled back to record the winning takedown over Mukwonago’s Kirk Zylke with 8 seconds remaining in the 160-pound Division 1 match at the Kohl Center.
Cole then let out a sigh with 2 seconds left because he had avoided a bad case of déjà vu.
“I kind of sat there knowing I had him down,” he said about the 8-6 decision. “The ref was telling me, ‘Keep wrestling, keep wrestling,’ but there was nothing I could do. I was so relieved I just sat there and kind of enjoyed it.”
In his first state appearance, Cole went on to win a 9-4 decision over Arrowhead’s Zach Barbee and become one of seven area D1 wrestlers to advance to tonight’s semifinals.
“I’m so proud of him because he came a long way from a year ago when he took third at sectionals by kind of making a stupid move trying a throw with a tied score with like 5 seconds left,” Ashwaubenon coach Jody Van Laanen said.
“This year he’s matured so much and has won all the close matches by not panicking in those situations.”
Following the mistake that cost Cole a trip to state last year, it looked like a similar move would prevent him from advancing at it in his final season.
But he recovered this time.
“I forced a shot I shouldn’t have taken,” said Cole, who is 42-3. “I had to scramble a little bit and got that last takedown to seal the deal.”
From there he tallied seven points in the third period to finish off his quarterfinal victory to set up a match against second-ranked Dima Hawksford of Hudson and guarantee himself a spot on the podium, which will end a two-year drought for the Jaguars without a place winner.
“I have a move called slide by, and I haven’t been able to hit it much kind of through the area at regionals and sectionals because everybody there has seen it before and know it’s coming. I used it a lot in that match to build my lead up.”
Another Ashwaubenon senior also had a strong showing at state.
Heavyweight Greg Aparicio won a 6-4 decision in a preliminary match over sixth-ranked Ryan Fay of Wausau West.
While Aparicio fell in the quarterfinals, the fact that he made it to Madison is an accomplishment in itself considering it’s only his second season in the sport.
He originally went out last year to help him improve for football. But after winning 25 matches, Aparicio came back to see how far he could go on the mat.
“We’ve been trying to talk him into going out for wrestling since seventh, eighth grade,” Cole said. “He’s such an athletic guy for his weight. He might not know the most moves or have the best technique, but his pure athleticism and the way he can move for a guy his size is amazing.”
Van Laanen added, “From the beginning of this year to now, he’s really improved a lot in his game. He could also throw guys, but he’s really improved particularly on the bottom position getting out.”
That’s what Aparicio and eight other area D1 wrestlers that made the consolation bracket will try to do as they attempt to place.