For Jared Cole, the road back to the high school wrestling mats actually started on the cross country path.|
Breaking his left thumb toward the end of his freshman football season in the fall of 2011 ultimately resulted in the Prophetstown sophomore's varsity wrestling debut for the Erie-Prophetstown co-op set aside for a year, although he still practiced regularly.
"At first, I didn't think it was broken,'' said Cole. "I thought if I took some time off, it'd get better, but it just got worse. That's when I started worrying about missing wrestling. I was convinced I'd get to wrestle at least two or three times, but my doctor kept extending my time out to the point where it was the whole season.''
Not only has the Panthers' sophomore 138-pounder gotten back on the mat, he has done so in impressive fashion with a 9-1 start highlighted by last Saturday's first-place finish at Riverdale's Jim Boyd Invitational. His title and comeback have earned him this week's Area Pacesetter honor for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus.
But as far as Cole is concerned, it was the training and stamina gained during his fall athletic pursuit that rounded him back into wrestling shape and helped him to survive going to overtime with Dubuque Senior's Enoc Alvarenga in the 138-pound finals at Riverdale, where Cole emerged with a 9-7 win.
"I definitely felt like I was in better shape than (Alvarenga), and I give the credit for that to cross country,'' he stated. "I got myself in good shape because of that, which helps in overtime matches. I like being a wrestler and a cross country runner. You have to have heart to be able to even finish either of those sports. You just can't go out and do it; it's got to come from deep down inside.''
Dealing with last year's injury and subsequent layoff required Cole to reach deep within himself to deal with the frustration of his situation.
"It was a big disappointment, especially going from thinking there was nothing really wrong to being out nine weeks,'' he said. "That was a big sock in the gut, especially right before my favorite sport started its season. I kind of had high hopes for (freshman wrestling season), and while breaking my thumb crushed them, it also raised them even more for this year.''
Erie-Prophetstown wrestling coach Tod McCullough never doubted Cole's ability to come back in top form. Having previously coached Cole's older brothers Matt and Alex, McCullough knew what he had in terms of work ethic and good wrestling stock.
"Jared's biggest asset is that he doesn't quit,'' said McCullough. "He keeps working hard. Last year was awfully tough on him, but with his brother Alex wrestling on the team last year, Jared stuck it out, and it's going to pay off for him.''
Representing the third generation of Coles to don a Panther singlet is something that has great meaning for Jared as he follows the path blazed by his brothers. The older Coles both enjoyed outstanding careers with E-P and were both part of the Panthers' 2009-10 team that reached the quarterfinals of the IHSA Class 1A State Dual Team Tournament.
"I've definitely learned a lot about working on my feet from Matt and Alex; all three of us are good wrestlers on our feet. I've also learned a lot off the mat, about having the right attitude and not having a negative attitude before a match, because your chances of losing are higher if that happens.''
Seeing Matt and Alex compete for E-P has also given the younger Cole a deeper appreciation for his team and its past accomplishments.
"It feels good to not only follow in my brothers' footsteps, but the entire Erie-Prophetstown program. They've got a pretty big name, so I think it's an honor to get to wrestle for them. I remember watching them down at state over two years ago, and I remember it was the coolest thing ever. I wanted more than anything to get to share that experience.''
Now that he's back, Cole hopes to follow another trail -- one that takes him to Champaign for the individual state finals, and the Panthers back to Bloomington for the state team series.
But like a true cross country runner, he knows that success can only be achieved one step at a time.
"You've got to get to sectionals first,'' Cole stated. "It all starts with sectionals.''
AREA PACESETTER JARED COLE
Favorite food: Pizza.
Favorite movie: Happy Gilmore.
Favorite TV show: Family Guy.
Favorite music: Classic rock.
Favorite school subject: Math.
Grade-point average: 3.5 (4.0 scale).
Favorite athlete: Brian Urlacher.
Role models: ``My older brothers Matt and Alex. I fell into wrestling because of them, and they've always helped me out with a lot of things. I've learned a lot from them.''
In my spare time: ``I'm a big water skier. That's probably my favorite hobby.''
Parents: Greg and Kim Cole, Tampico.
IN THE RUNNING:
Carly Adams and Erin Barton, Sherrard basketball: The Tigers' senior guard tandem tallied 50 and 44 points, respectively, in four victories last week that raised Sherrard's record to 10-0.
Cassidy Clark, Orion basketball: Tied a single-game school record with 36 points in the Chargers' 79-53 win over Macomb last Saturday, adding 13 rebounds and 11 blocked shots to complete her triple-double. In two games, the senior totaled 48 points, 24 boards and nearly 20 blocks.
Ben Corlett, Sherrard wrestling: Captured the 285-pound individual title at Riverdale's Jim Boyd Invitational as the Tigers placed third for the highest finish by an area squad.
Cassie Reiley, Prophetstown basketball: Netted 46 points in three wins last week, including a pair of Three Rivers Conference victories that have the 10-1 Lady Prophets off to a 5-0 league start.
Trevor Lay, Wethersfield basketball: The junior standout netted 46 points in the Flying Geese's nonconference wins over Spring Valley Hall and Williamsfield.
Jacob Johnston, Erie basketball: Cut loose for 69 points in three wins last week that moved the Cardinals' record to 5-4.
Hannah Nimrick, Riverdale basketball: Had 33 points and just over 20 rebounds in two wins last week, including a 20-point, 11-board night in a key Three Rivers Conference win over Erie.
Ethan Happ and Bryan Heath, Rockridge basketball: Previous Area Pacer Happ notched 52 points and 38 rebounds last week, with Heath going for 44 points and 12 boards in a pair of wins that kept the Rockets unbeaten at 7-0.
Celina VanHyfte, Annawan basketball: The previous Area Pacer kept up her outstanding play and kept the Bravettes undefeated, posting 51 points in Lincoln Trail Conference wins over United and Ridgewood.
Milan, IL Details
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