Austin Cole worked himself into a champion wrestler

J. Patrick Eaken

Northwood senior wrestler Austin Cole is a school record holder, and no one can take that away from him.
However, the record he wanted will not happen because the Ohio High School Athletic Association “postponed indefinitely” the state wrestling tournament because of the Coronavirus COVID-19.
“I beat a lot of records, but I didn’t get the record I wanted though — the single season record. I was two wins off. If I would have went to state…,” Cole said, letting his voice drop off after the word “state.”
It is easy to understand what comes next — the old “what if” that never happened.
Cole (44-5) finished as a Division III district runner-up, losing in the 195-pound championship by a 13-3 major decision to Edison senior Jacob Brewer (54-7). Once he knew he had qualified for state, the celebration was on. He won three matches straight, including the semifinal, to get to the title match.
“Once I won that match, I went crazy,” Cole said. “It was a good feeling that I was going to make it down there and have the opportunity to do some great things down there.”
Still, Cole needed to get to 46 wins to get the record he wanted most, but there were other records he did get.
Cole ended his career second in career wins (tied with Jake Grigson) at 134.  He is now the leader in career pins (81) and pins in a season (30).  He ranks top five all time in takedowns, two-point near falls, three-point near falls and technical falls.
Northwood coach Nick Encheff has enjoyed watching Cole develop over his career.
“He is one of the better natural athletes to come through our program,” Encheff said. “He won some matches his freshman year because of his athleticism. He had a losing record as a freshman. He is a very raw wrestler. 
“The enjoyable part was watching him learn the sport of wrestling and the improvement over the years. Austin does have college coaches inquiring about him but, as of now, he is not planning to attend college. As far as a person, I do not believe I have seen a more social person, and I think that helped him prepare for the bigger stages. He is very relaxed and confident before matches.”
Cole admits he plans on entering the workforce after graduation from high school and not wrestling collegiately. But Encheff could see Cole’s disappointment when the state meet was cancelled.
“I won't speak too much for Austin. It's a given to say he was disappointed, as all the other state qualifiers were,” Encheff said.
“He did experience the state tournament last year, which many will not have that opportunity now. As far as I am concerned, I get emotional for all of my seniors at the end of their careers. Watching them strive and progress for four years, and then the majority do not achieve the level they have been working so hard toward. It's a very humbling sport for wrestlers and coaches.”
To Encheff’s credit, and his coaching staff, Cole believes he became a state-meet qualifying wrestler because of them. The Rangers finished as Toledo City League runners-up, narrowly losing to east side rival and champion Waite, and enjoyed success up and down the lineup all year.
“Honestly, everything that I saw going into other programs, I have never had such good coaches before. They are always right by your side. They are always pushing,” Cole said.
“Coach (Steve) Simok has done a lot with me all season long, just pushed me throughout the season and coming in helping during his off days and grinding out with me,” Cole said.
“Coach (Ken) Reinhart just helping us with our strength and come in there and roll around with us — it is an amazing feeling that they come out there and do stuff like that. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for any better coaches. They get things done, we do stuff in the room we get done and then we go rock it out in the tournaments.”
It all resulted in a big season for the Northwood senior.
“Winning the (Northwood’s Jim) Derr (Memorial) was a really huge accomplishment for me. I haven’t won that — last year I took second place,” Cole said.
“Then, I didn’t do too hot at (Clay’s) Maumee Bay (Classic), but at PIT (Perrysburg Invitational Tournament) I ended up beating the No. 1 kid in the state in my placement match. I fell short my first one but then I came back and cut some weight because I knew 220 wasn’t right for me, so got down to 195 and I thought that was a good accomplishment. I rocked that out and did what I wanted to do and took first.
“The districts came and I ended up winning all my matches until my semifinal match, then I pinned a kid in 1:03, then I ended up losing to the projected state champ which was a bad thing. Then, it all went downhill when we got cancelled (for state).”

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