YORKTOWN — Only three times was Yorktown’s Cael McCormick pinned last season.
One of them happened to be on the first day of the state wrestling championships.
He lost in a 4-3 decision to Alston Bane, who went on to place third in the 145-pound weight class. McCormick was sent packing, left to wonder what went wrong for the second-ranked wrestler in the state.
The sweet taste of victory is memorable, but for McCormick, that defeat stung even worse.
“That loss last year meant more than all of the wins I had,” McCormick said. “I looked back at my high school career and I see all of the wins, but those losses mean something to me too.”
It means he’ll have that state championship goal to shoot for this season, both as an individual and as a team. Last season, Yorktown finished 11th at state. The only other area team was Delta, finishing at 21st.
McCormick’s dad, Trent McCormick, has been coaching for 28 years. He said Cael started wrestling when he was just four years old.
That’s what happens when your dad is a wrestling coach.
“I’m not sure if he really had much of a choice,” Trent said, laughing.
Cael calls himself a “mat general”, a term he said is used at Yorktown to reference someone who reads his surroundings well and has strong awareness. He said it’s one of the strongest parts of his game.
“It’s something I really excel at, being cognizant on the mat,” Cael said.
He’ll be flanked with other successful Yorktown wrestlers throughout the season. Brad Laughlin placed fifth at 138 last season, and Christian Hunt fell in the match to decide fifth place at 108.
Trent called Cael and Laughlin two of the leaders on the team, and are also two of the four captains. Laughlin said the goal this season is to win state as a team, a real possibility with the returning talent Yorktown has.
And it appears Cael is the leader of that group.
“It’s perfect, you couldn’t ask for anything better,” Laughlin said. “He pushes you every day, he’s not going to stop trying to make everyone better.”
Cael will compete at 152 this season and is ranked 23rd in the country in that class, according to preseason polls from WIN magazine. He credits the progress he’s made in improving over the summer to the defeat he suffered at state last season.
It left a bitter taste in his mouth that can only be fixed with another run for a championship. As a senior, if he falls short of his goal this season, he’ll have much longer than a summer to think about it.
“You do something your entire life and suddenly you’re let down, there was no one to blame but myself,” Cael said. “I fixed what I needed to fix, and now I’m ready to get going again.”
Contact prep sports reporter David Polaski at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidPolaskiTSP