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High school wrestling

Cox leaves it all on mat en route to state-championship season

Medomak Valley junior puts it on line during matches — even if it means 'dying'
By Zack Miller | Mar 15, 2020
Photo by: Zack Miller Medomak Valley's Tyler Cox.

Waldoboro — "It's a good day to die."

No, not literally die, but that seemingly ominous phrase kept Medomak Valley High School junior Tyler Cox motivated throughout the 2019-2020 wrestling season.

The quote is one his grandmother — Maureen Reed of Waldoboro, who is a physical therapist — told him, after her sensei spoke those words to her, which has translated into Cox's mentality of "put everything on the mat."

"If you don’t have anything else [left] you did the best you could," said Cox. "That kind of mindset really prepared me to go all three rounds and wrestle with heart."

The 17-year-old Waldoboro native completed his third high school mat season with a record of 52-8, with 31 pins — his career includes a record of 105-37, with 57 pins — which propelled Cox to the state Class B 170-pound title on Saturday, Feb. 15, at Fryeburg Academy.

"It was awesome to win [the title] and I accomplished what I wanted to with that win in my season," said Cox. "On paper I thought I would win, but someone can show up and beat you if you have a bad mindset. There have been weirder things that have happened on the mats before, and I wrestled everyone as if they were my final match."

Starting injured

Despite the end result of a state championship, Cox's season was not all "sunshine and rainbows," but instead one of redemption, as he suffered a acromioclavicular joint separation, or AC separation.

This type of injury, according to The Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute, "is a very frequent injury among physically active people" when "the clavicle (collar bone) separates from the scapula (shoulder blade)." The injury is "commonly caused by a fall directly on the 'point' of the shoulder or a direct blow received in a contact sport," which is exactly what happened to Cox.

"The second preseason meet I was in my second match of the day and I got lifted up in a ball and chain — when you get your hand wrapped near your crotch. He picked it up, I shot right up, and I landed directly on my shoulder, which jutted down and a bone stuck up a little bit," said Cox. "I finished the match, which I lost, and I was hurting, and we iced it constantly after that."

It was not a good start for what was — and ultimately turned out to be — a promising junior campaign.

"In the moment I was chugging along, and in the mindset of trying to get over it and deal with it," said Cox. "As the season progressed, I think I went from 'deal with it,' to 'this really sucks.'

"It’s my junior year, I’ve set out to win, and I have an injury in my second meet. As it started to heal, I didn’t have any issues with it. It’s fully healed now, and my grandmother was quite surprised, because usually you’re supposed to have a bump sticking out for the rest of your life, but it fully healed and is back in place. Once I heard about that I was stoked, and I could finally beat up these people that have been throwing me around."

The injury was a minor setback for Cox, and "stoked the fire."

"I could still beat people, and if I can beat people with an injury imagine what I could do without the injury, so I was excited to see what I could do with it," said Cox.

Back on track

With the injury behind him physically and mentally, Cox set his sights on his season goals, which started with a Class B South championship in the same weight class on Saturday, Feb. 8, inside his home gymnasium.

The win moved him onto states the following week, as Cox kept the momentum with his first career state title.

"My expectations [going into states] were to put everything on the mat that I had and leave it there," said Cox. "Whatever happens, happens. If I lose, keep moving through the day, and if I win, keep winning."

Cox pinned a familiar foe in Belfast's Elijah Charbonnier at the 1:58-mark in his first match, then pinned Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor's Baylor Landsmen at 3:00, which also was Cox's 100th career victory, to set up a rematch with Lisbon/Oak Hill's Daniel Bolton, whom Cox defeated for the regional title the week before.

"I’ve wrestled [Bolton] eight times in the past two years," said Cox. "He’s a fantastic opponent and we are friends, and every time I threw him in the match I could hear the breath [leave him]. I had to reassure myself while on the mat that he was okay."

Cox beat Bolton by technical fall, 17-2, to capture the state title.

"It was super emotional when I won, because I haven’t won anything since eighth grade," said Cox. "It was awesome to win [the title] and I accomplished what I wanted to with that win in my season."

Cox advanced to the New England qualifier, or all-states, on Feb. 29, and finished fourth, as he missed qualifying for New Englands by one place, after he lost to Bolton, which eliminated Cox from advancing.

"This year I was mentally drained, and physically I peaked at states," said Cox. "After states my mentality plummeted. I won states, and, mentally, that was my greatest achievement. I won that and I was very happy with myself and how I felt, but then my brain shut off [with wrestling season], but I still had all-states to show up too. I wasn’t [going to skip] all-states because that’s a huge achievement to [get too]."

Family support and final season

Cox may not have won the state championship, or done as well as he has in his career, without the support of those close to him.

"My grandparents and great-grandparents are huge parts of my life," said Cox. "My grandmother and great-grandmother come to all my meets. When I won regionals I gave my regional bracket to my great-grandmother [Marjorie Lupien of Waldoboro].

"Even in school they push me to stay on par and try to learn. [Reed] is a huge influence in my life, and pushes me to be a strong athlete, and be strong academically.

"If I didn’t have the same kind of support [I wouldn’t be the same]. I think family support is huge. I think if my grandmother didn’t support me as much as she did I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I wouldn’t have a title or as many wins, and as a young kid my grandmother instilled this mindset of keep pushing and [put your] nose to the grindstone as much as you can."

Cox has one final high school wrestling season, and has high expectations not only for himself, but for the team.

"I’m really gunning to be a team captain," said Cox. "I’m going to try and kick our team in gear. This year I thought we were a little slow getting in shape, but every year seems to get easier, and it could be me getting more used it.

"I’m hoping to try and push our team further and beat Camden Hills and other teams that have been beating us the past 20-plus years, and get another title on the wall. I’d like to get past Elias Miller’s wins, but I don’t think I’ll catch Erik Benner, as well as placing in the top two at all-states."

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