WPIAL alum Q&A with Waynesburg graduate Cole Rush
Western Pennsylvania has been recognized for its high school wrestling for years, as some of the best grapplers in the country have hailed from this region.
As a result, reaching 100 career wins is a significant achievement for any high-school competitor. Former Waynesburg standout Cole Rush not only achieved that milestone, but he's also one of the most successful wrestlers this year at Shippensburg. Rush is this week's featured athlete for the WPIAL alum Q&A.
Rush competed as a freshman at Waynesburg in 2012-13, going 18-17 for the Raiders. Wrestling in the 106-pound class, Rush placed fifth in the Section 4-AAA tournament, but did not place at the WPIAL championship. Additionally, Waynesburg qualified for the team playoffs, but fell to North Hills in the opening round.
The following year, Rush improved to 25-13. He once again competed at 106, and this time, finished third in the sectional. He did not place once again in the WPIAL tournament, while the Raiders failed to qualify for the team tournament.
In 2014-15, Rush moved up to the 120-pound class, and further elevated his performance, compiling a record of 29-12. Rush captured the Section 4 title, but failed to place in the WPIAL tournament. With a subsection record of 3-1 and 16-5 overall record, Waynesburg reached the playoffs, defeating Pine-Richland, 42-27, before falling to Belle Vernon in the quarterfinals.
As a senior, Rush moved into the 126-pound class, and replicated his record from the previous year. He lost a 4-2 decision to Canon-McMillan's Matt O'Block in the finals of the Section 4 tournament. Rush had a breakthrough performance in the WPIAL tournament, however, as he edged O'Block in a rematch and ultimately finished fourth, qualifying for the state tournament in the process. In Hershey, Rush failed to place, finishing his career with a mark of 101-54. Additionally, the Raiders reached the postseason with a subsection mark of 3-1 and 14-4 overall, but lost to North Allegheny in their first match.
Rush stayed a Raider, though, as he matriculated to Shippensburg. With the Raiders, Rush competed in the 133-pound class as a true freshman. He finished with a mark of 9-12, including a sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament. Shippensburg finished 12-14, but just 1-6 in the conference.
Now in his sophomore campaign, Rush has enjoyed tremendous success, despite a mid-season change in his weight class. Rush started the season at 133, and won five of his eight bouts. In January, though, he bumped up to 141, and has won all three of his matches since the change. The Raiders are 6-7 overall, with a 1-4 mark in PSAC action.
Cole took time from his schedule to answer questions about his style of wrestling, why his 100th career win was so significant, and the best advice he's ever received.
After having a losing record as a freshman, you have won the majority of your matches this season. What has been the reason for your improvement?
It was big adjustment from high school to college wrestling. My freshman year, I struggled with the adjustment, but learned a lot through the season and began doing well at the end of the year and have continued to progress through the summer and into this season. Although the technique and style has progressed, the biggest improvement was my attitude. I've mentally become much stronger and go out every match with the goal of having my hand raised, no matter the opponent. This attitude carries into the practice room, where improvements are still being made, with more potential still to come.
How would you describe your style of wrestling?
I would say my style varies depending my opponent. I'm a grinder; I want to mentally and physically break my opponent. I'm in great shape and I like to push the pace. I'm not afraid to hit crazy or big moves, so I guess somewhat of an unpredictable and exciting style, as well.
You recently moved up in weight class. What was the decision behind that, and did you face any difficulty in doing so?
College is hard enough alone, and juggling wrestling and academics is difficult. The weight cut on top of it all was a lot, so that was one reason for the bump. Another reason is that I didn't feel that I was competing my best at the lower weight, as I was feeling sucked out and weak when I wrestled. It was a difficult decision following days of talking with my coach, teammates and family, but in the end, I felt the best choice was to bump up; so we'll see if it pays off for me.
Did you set any individual or team goals for this season?
As any other season, my goal is to be the best I can. I want to go to the national tournament, and I want to be an All-American. Bringing a medal home from nationals is the goal.
What was the worst wrestling-related injury you have ever suffered?
Luckily, I've stayed for the most part very healthy and have yet to suffer a bad injury, thank the good Lord.
What led to your decision to attend Shippensburg?
First and foremost, Shippensburg had what I wanted/needed academically. On top of the that, I really liked the area and the campus. Upon visiting, I met with the coach and I loved his philosophy and the way he coached. He saw potential in me where others didn't, and I believed he could get me to that next level, making my choice easy to come to pursue my wrestling career at Ship.
What is your major and ideal future profession?
I am a medical biology major, and I plan to attend graduate college to become a chiropractor.
What is the biggest key to balancing academics and athletics?
As I mentioned before, being a student-athlete is a challenge, but I've found that creating a routine and being willing to work hard is the key to success. Last semester, I would get up and run before class, go to all my classes, go to practice, then go to the library in the evening until all my work was done. I did this every day, managing to stay ahead of my school work and excel in wrestling.
You won more than 100 matches at Waynesburg? What did it mean to reach that milestone?
My 100th win match is, and probably will always be, the most memorable match of my career. Not only was the match my 100th win, but it was the match that sent me to the state tournament. I was sitting in the WPIAL regional tournament blood round with an opponent who I had lost to three times that season. If I lost, my career ends there with 99 wins and no trip to the states. The match went into ultimate rideout, getting an escape to win 2-1 with only 10 seconds left. It was an overwhelming experience, and I'll never forgot running into the bleachers to hug my mom, who was crying uncontrollably. I got my 100th win and a trip to Hershey. So to answer your question, it meant more than you could ever know.
Do you have any pre- or post-match rituals?
I've never been much for pre-match rituals, just the usual warm up. I don't like to listen to music as most people do, but rather, get in my thoughts. I always like to mentally prepare and take time to pray. Post-match ritual is good eats, usually ice cream.
Do you use social media much, and if so, which is your favorite?
I'm not really much for a social media guy, but I do enjoy Instagram ... big picture guy.
Who is your celebrity dream date?
Selena Gomez has been my celebrity dream date since I was young. Can you make this happen?
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Through a hard time in my life, an older friend told me a simple quote — “This will either make you who you are, or who you're not.” I didn't understand this at first, but I've never forgotten those few words. Events come in your life where decisions have to be made and those decisions will define who you are as person. So make the decisions and do the things that you'll look back on proud of what you did. Decisions that show your character and who you are, not someone you aren't.
Sean Meyers is a freelance writer.