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Cooley ready for the next step

February 27, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
Roshaun Cooley didn't think anything of the tumble he took off his scooter just prior to the wrestling season. He's had his fingers stubbed plenty of times in his wrestling career, and it's all the Williamsport junior thought he did when he braced himself from a fall off his scooter.

Even the next day at wrestling practice when his thumb was swollen, he didn't think much of it. But after a week of swelling he became concerned, and a trip to the hospital revealed a broken thumb for Williamsport's two-time district champion.

Cooley missed the first month of the season because of the broken thumb, but both he and Millionaires head coach Joe Eaton are seeing there was at least a small positive to come out of the injury. Cooley enters his third consecutive regional tournament tonight at Altoona High School fresh as could be.

He didn't have the grind which comes with December wrestling to put up with. So when he was on the road to winning his first District 4/9 Class AAA championship last week, Cooley said he felt better than he ever has at this point in the season. And now the 11th-ranked 120-pounder in the state feels like he's capable of qualifying for the PIAA tournament for the first time in his career.

“Usually around this time my body is beat up and I just want the season to be over,” Cooley said Thursday in Williamsport's wrestling room. “But this time I have that little bit more of a push because I'm fresh. Last year I didn't have the confidence in myself, this year I do.”

“If there's any bright side to him being out for the first month, it's right now he is wrestling hard and he is motivated and excited about wrestling,” Eaton said. “As much as we missed him at the beginning of the year, he's fresh. You can tell he's happy about wrestling and he's nowhere near burned out about the season.”

And as for scooters? Well, his dad put a kibosh on that. No more scooter-riding during the season.

But that's OK. Cooley has more important things on his mind, and it's not just about getting to Hershey for the state tournament. It's about getting to the state tournament and earning a medal.

He enters this weekend's Northwest Regional tournament as the third-ranked 120-pound wrestler in the region by, and he's on the top half of the bracket with Bellefonte's Brock Port, who is ranked second in the region. Should Cooley manage to qualify for the state tournament by finishing in the top three, he would be Williamsport's first state qualifier since Leroy Harman in 2010.

But just getting there isn't the goal. It's to bring home a medal. Something which hasn't been done by a Williamsport wrestler since Mac Rohaly and Matt Mapes each finished in the top three in 1995.

For the record, Cooley was born in 1997.

“He's all about trying to get to the next tournament, and when we get there, it's all about trying to get a medal,” Eaton said. “That's been the goal all year, no matter what the health situation. We're not going after 100 wins. We're not going after dual-meet points. We're going after a state medal.

“We're in a good position in that bracket. If I was going to pick a spot to be, he's probably in the best spot to be to get to the finals and qualify the easy way.”

Cooley is a much different wrestler than he has been in his first two years competing at Williamsport. He's wrestling with far more confidence than he ever has. He's 63-7 in his career and four of those losses have come in the regional tournaments he's competed in.

He went 1-2 as a freshman at 106 pounds in the brutal Northeast Regional tournament. Last year he won his first two matches, advancing to the semifinals at 106 pounds. But he then lost two in a row, eliminating him from the tournament.

Cooley spent his offseason putting more focus on his freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling which he says has helped improve his folkstyle wrestling. Not to mention he's beaten state-level and national-level competitors in offseason competitions. He's also put in work at both Mat Town and the Bison Legend Club. All of that has led to a more confident wrestler who's ready to take the next step in his career.

“This year I can honestly say I think I'm going to make it out. Last year, I couldn't say that,” Cooley said. “This year I'm going out on the mat relaxed. I used to treat big matches differently, which I shouldn’t do, and I just put too much pressure on myself. I battle a lot with mental issues when it comes to wrestling and competing. But I think I have a lot of confidence this year.”

Cooley was pounding his opponents when he came back from his injury just after the new year. It was to the point that Eaton was forcing Cooley to get to the second period in his matches just to test his wind.

Fifteen matches into his season, only three have gone the full six minutes. He hasn't had the toughest of competition since coming back from the injury, especially missing out on the Top Hat tournament to start the year which featured two other state-ranked wrestlers at 120 pounds.

But Cooley was fully tested in last week's district final, winning 8-2 in his first six-minute match in over a month.

“That really hurt to miss the Top Hat because there's some really good competition out there. But I can't do anything about it now,” Cooley said. “We just worry about states and everything we have to do to take care of that. I want to medal. I'll be happy to get there, but I want a medal. That's been my goal all year.”


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