PRINCETON — Austin Wetsel didn’t need a freshmen orientation when it came to wrestling. He was well prepared.
The Princeton freshman stepped up this season, posting an area-best 30-14 record in his first dose of varsity competition.
He was a regional runner-up, missing out on the title by one point, and missed out qualifying for state by two matches.
This week he has received second-team honors in the Three Rivers, a conference that produced six state medalists and a third-place dual meet team.
And now he wears the crown as the 2014 BCR Wrestler of the Year. He is the first freshman to earn that honor.
“I have a lot of experience. It was kind of scary wrestling seniors, but not that bad,” he said.
PHS coach Steve Amy said Wetsel wasn’t your typical freshman with little experience, having wrestled a long time coming up through Tiger Town.
“This season Austin really did a great job stepping up and performing at a very high level. I think as a freshman coming in to the varsity level you don’t expect to have the type of success he was able to have,” Amy said. “A lot of that comes from his work ethic as well as the time he has put in to the sport. From day one of the season he stepped in and took over the leadership role with his work ethic.”
Wetsel said he got started on the mats for Tiger Town at the age 6 or 7. While he didn’t have all the success he would have liked, he gained invaluable experience.
“I only made it to state once. That was kind of a bummer. I guess I did OK and got the state series once, and that didn’t go to well,” he said.
The Tiger cub started the season at 126 pounds, where he said most of the kids were bigger than he is, but still posted an impressive 22-8 record. He dropped to 120 later in the season.
He’s still kicking himself about the regional championship that got away. He gave up the first takedown and had to wrestle from behind, falling 6-5 to take second.
“I could have beat him, easily. I just wasn’t ready to go,” Wetsel said.
Things didn’t go the way he would have liked at sectional either. He was able to win once in wrestlebacks, but not all the way to get in to contention for state.
“It makes me frustrated, because I could have done better,” said Wetsel, who absorbed 10 losses to ranked wrestlers with three wins. “I wrestled like crap that last match, I wrestled like crap that second day, actually, at sectionals. I don’t know what was up.
“I’m happy with winning 30 matches, but I was really hoping to go to state. I was two matches from going, That kind of bummed me out.”
State is the one goal he has set his sights on.
“I want to place at state, that’s my only goal,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s first, second, third all the way down. I just want to place. I want to get one of those green plaques.”
Amy doesn’t doubt he will.
“Austin is always wanting to get better, that drive to be the best is what all coaches want from their athletes,” he said. “He isn’t satisfied with the season he had. In fact I would say he is upset with himself after watching guys that he beat wrestle at the state tournament.
“Even though the season is over, he is still in wrestling 2-3 times a week. And that is what it will take to be a state champion.”
Wetsel figures his time is coming, being just a freshmen.
“I think once all the seniors and juniors get out of here, then I’ll start getting it. I didn’t really lose to other freshmen and sophomores, it was like to the juniors and seniors. They’re going to be gone next year.”
He’s already getting a head start, qualifying for this weekend’s freshmen-sophomore sectional having place second at regionals.
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