Daniel Cole knew there were a couple of different routes he could take to get to Madison for the WIAA individual state wrestling tournament this year.
The Ashwaubenon senior chose to take the path with the biggest obstacles on it.
Cole was successful in clearing the first part of the road to the Kohl Center last Saturday when he moved up to the 285-pound weight class and won a WIAA Division 1 regional title at Green Bay Preble.
The Jaguars captain has no interest in taking an early exit Saturday at the Kaukauna sectional as he attempts to clear the final hurdle to qualify for state for the first time.
“I feel really good,” Cole said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun because I’ve never wrestled any of these guys, so it’s kind of a mystery of how it’s going to go. I’m excited to see what these guys can do and how I can do against them.”
Cole kept the weight class he would be wrestling at in the postseason a mystery to his parents, teammates and coaches.
That was mainly because he was still weighing his options until last week.
Cole has wrestled at 220 pounds for a majority of his career, but would have been part of a loaded bracket at sectionals as one of four state-ranked wrestlers at the weight class. Two individuals from each weight class at Division 1 sectionals advance to state.
His other option was bumping up to 285 pounds, which had only one other state-ranked wrestler by WIWrestling.com in his sectional. However, he would be rather unfamiliar with his opponents and likely giving up a lot of weight to most of them.
Cole ultimately chose to move up to heavyweight, knowing he would have an advantage with his speed and endurance.
“I liked that style of wrestling a lot better because it fit me as a wrestler better,” Cole said. “But giving up 65 pounds is a lot of weight. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t really tell anybody what I was going to do until practice (last) Monday because that’s when coach needed to know.”
Cole just missed out on qualifying for state last year, losing a 4-3 ultimate tiebreaker at sectionals to Pulaski’s Taylor Brancefield in a wrestleback for second place at 220 pounds.
Cole is 37-4 this year and will face Neenah senior Luke Higgins (20-18) on Saturday in the sectional quarterfinals at Kaukauna.
“Danny is giving up a little bit of weight, but he’s got all of the other intangibles,” Ashwaubenon wrestling coach Jody VanLaanen said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s smart. He’s quicker than these other guys and has better endurance. He keeps such great position.”
Cole has a weighted GPA above a 4.0 and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Stout to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.
Besides wrestling, Cole has competed in lacrosse for the Green Bay Metro Rebels club team and was a lineman on the Ashwaubenon football team.
“Lacrosse is pretty physical,” VanLaanen said. “It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination with moving the stick and all that. He was a very solid football player because he was assignment sure. Being a wrestler, there were not too many guys that got by him or beat him.”
The individual Cole looked up to the most in wrestling was his older brother, Mitchell, who advanced to state for the first time as a senior in 2013 and finished as the 160-pound D1 runner-up after having to take a medical forfeit in the finals due to a knee injury.
“He’s such a great brother,” Daniel Cole said. “He helps me with everything I do. He was always there coaching me and helping me out. Watching him at state broke my heart because I knew how much he worked for it, and it was really hard to watch that. That just motivates me so much more because I know how hard it was for him.”
Cole said he didn’t have much luck adding weight to his frame in advance of regionals last week. He’s hoping that will change some for sectionals.
“I’m a big meatloaf guy,” Cole said. “My mom’s a great cook and she definitely helps me with that.”
Ashwaubenon has seven wrestlers competing at individual sectionals as the program attempts to advance at least one individual to state for a sixth straight year. Joining Cole will be freshman Cody Minor (106), freshman Noah Leisgang (113), sophomore Fernando Coronado (120), freshman Dawson Dembroski (138), freshman Marty Kiernan (145) and senior Tyler McVane (182).
Cole and McVane have been partners in the wrestling room since fourth grade. McVane (31-11) is also aiming for his first state appearance and had 10 straight pins this season.
The seniors appear to be leaving the program in good hands with the young talent that is coming up.
“It’s a lot of fun wrestling with those little guys because they are also so passionate about the sport and have a lot of heart,” Cole said. “It’s fun watching them win and do well.
“I’m really proud of that. I’m definitely coming back and helping these guys out whenever I get the chance next year.”
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