HOWLAND, Maine — For many high school wrestlers, achievement is a power-based formula.
Peyton Cole, while certainly not lacking for strength, has taken a slightly different approach to a career on the mat that leaves him within reach of a fourth consecutive individual state championship.
Just call the Ellsworth High School senior “The Technician.”
“He never gets out of position, that’s the big thing,” said Ellsworth head coach J.F. Burns after Cole captured the 145-pound title during the recent Penobscot Valley Conference championships.
“Even in his matches [Saturday] there were a couple of moments when it looked like his opponent might get somewhere but they didn’t. That’s where he’s so good, he can always stay in a favorable position and that makes the difference.”
Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln head coach Matt Lindsay, himself a former four-time individual state champion for Penobscot Valley High School of Howland from 1995 through 1998, has a different way to describe the secret to Cole’s wrestling success.
“I don’t know if I can say it, but he’s got hips of God,” said Lindsay, “His ability to stay balanced and stay poised in any position regardless of the situation is amazing. It almost looks like he makes things up on the spot, but it’s years of technique just coming together.”
Cole enters Saturday’s Class B North regional meet at Mount View High School in Thorndike with a 147-17 career record, with most of the losses coming as a freshman and sophomore when he routinely moved up in weight class in search of more competition and to fast-track his personal development.
“I think just seeking out those matches to try to improve myself was important for me,” Cole said.”I don’t say I didn’t go out there to win, but for me it’s really thrilling just to see my improvement. If I’m wrestling a kid and I do a new move, that’s such fun to me. It’s a really good feeling.”
While he played goalie for the Ellsworth soccer team last fall and teamed with former three-time state wrestling champion and longtime friend Trent Goodman to play first doubles on the Eagles’ tennis team last spring, Cole also is a year-round wrestler.
That’s been the case since he was much younger, first joining the likes of Goodman, current Ellsworth teammate Logan Lord and former Ellsworth and Belfast wrestler Dagan Berenyi at the Cummings Compound in Belfast. More recently he’s been based at the Wrestler’s Way club in Ellsworth working with coach Logan Walsh.
“When I first started I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “As I started to do it more I really enjoyed it and I think that’s what pushed me to get better.”
That led to Cole’s participation in numerous out-of-state tournaments, which he credits for accelerating both his learning curve and success rate in Maine.
“Even though I didn’t win all the matches it improved me a lot,” he said.
His high school state championships have come at 132 pounds as a freshman, 138 pounds as a sophomore and 152 pounds as a junior when he moved up an extra class because senior Joshua Wright was the incumbent at 145.
The heavier competition proved no additional obstacle for Cole, who placed fourth at 152 pounds in last year’s New England championships.
“That’s the type of kid he is,” said Burns. “He’s willing to make sacrifices for the team and everyone really appreciates it.”
Cole’s lone loss this winter came at the Lowell (Massachusetts) Holiday Wrestling Tournament where he reached the 145-pound semifinals before dropping a 6-5 decision to eventual weight-class champion Shaun Wagner of Southington, Connecticut.
Cole rebounded through the consolation bracket to finish third with a 6-1 record that included five wins by either pin or major decision.
“We’ve got to find competition for him so we went to Lowell and he lost in the semifinals by one point after giving up two points in the final seconds, then came back and pinned a kid in the consolation finals,” said Burns. “All of that was to help get him ready for New Englands.”
While Cole devotes more time to strength training these days, those efforts are designed to complement his wrestling foundation.
“When I was growing up we never did a lot of pushups or military training or anything like that. We’d just go over technique so I feel like I’m a technician,” he said. “But as I’m aging I’m lifting more but I’m doing more reps instead of a lot of bulk because I don’t want to hurt myself technique-wise.”
Cole plans to continue his wrestling career with the University of Maine club program next year, but first comes the chance to join a select group of wrestlers who have concluded each of their four high school seasons as a state championship.
“I think it’s just hitting me that I’m going to be one of the only people to be a four-time state champion at Ellsworth if I do get it,” said Cole. “It’s kind of special,” he said.
And the top finishes may not end there, according to some who follow the sport.
“I’m pulling for him to win a New England (championship),” said Lindsay. “I’d love to see him standing on top of a podium down at the New Englands this year and I think anyone you talk to in this state would say the same thing.
“I wouldn’t bet against him regardless of who he’s wrestling.”
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