Evan Cole, who placed second in Georgia in the 145-pound weight classification earlier this year, signed the scholarship with the Lebanon, Tenn., college in a ceremony at Cartersville High.
“I was just playing football and ... one of the teachers at the school ... said I was mean in football and I should try wrestling,” he recalled, adding he wasn’t even sure which teacher it was. “Right when I started, I loved it. I was good when I started and I got better.”
Cole sure did get better. He was 52-2 this year as a senior. His two losses were to state champions, one a 6A state champion from Parkview and the other the wrestler he lost to in the finals at Buford. He won eight individual tournaments for Cartersville over the year.
Garvin Edwards, Cartersville head wrestling coach, said Cole has meant a lot to his wrestling program as a competitor.
“Evan has been with us four years and ... placed in state the past two years. He placed third as a junior last year. He placed second as a senior. He’s an outstanding wrestler, as good as I’ve ever coached, and I’ve had a few who’ve had success and gone on and wrestled in college. Evan is as good or better than any of them.”
Edwards said that’s not his only positive impact on the program.
“Cole was our team leader this year,” the coach said. “He’s had an outstanding commitment. He never misses practices. He’s never late for practices. He never misses a competition.
“Those are the kinds of kids you want involved with your program. You want those kids who can commit, buy in and believe in what you say. He was self-motivated and self-driven. He went on his own to summer camps. He would go to and spend a couple of weeks there. He just fell in love with the sport and wanted to be the best at it that he could be. I think he achieved that. I’ve had many kids that I’ve coached that maybe have been state champions or whatever but I’ve never had any that were better than what he is. He is as good or better than any I’ve ever coached.”
Cole said he has a simple goal in mind for his college years. “My goal is to excel in everything I do.”
He said Cumberland University, a private, four-year institution just east of Nashville, has a good wrestling program and that is one of the reasons he plans to start his collegiate wrestling career there.
“They took sixth in nationals this year,” he said. “It is in NAIA but is moving up to Division II.”
Cole said he also likes Cumberland because it is a smaller school and closer to Cartersville than other schools he looked at.
“I want to go to a smaller school to start,” he said. “I liked it when I visited. They were a lot like me.”
Cole also wants a wrestling challenge.
“I want to earn a national championship,” he said, “and to always get better.”
His long-term plans are to go into business but he expects wrestling to remain part of his life.
“I’ll probably coach kids on the side or I’ll be a lay coach,” he said.
Cole said wrestling also teaches life lessons.
“[Wrestling] takes a lot of hard work,” he said. “If you give it everything you’ve got, it’ll turn out. It also teaches a lot about life and about not giving up.”
While he has put a lot of effort into wrestling, Cole is quick to give credit to his family for contributing to his success.
“My parents have always supported me,” he said. “I’ve had a great family that’s always pushing me to do well, to always do the best I can do.”
Edwards believes Cole will do well at the next level because he went on his own during summers to participate in wrestling programs offered at Ohio State and Appalachian State.
“Because of his time he spent at Ohio State and the time he spent at App [Appalachian] State, the time he has spent with the collegiate programs,” Edwards said, “I think it’s going to be a great fit for him. I think he’s going to excel there. I think he’s going to improve tremendously.”
Edwards said the college has a lot to offer Cole.
“I think Cumberland is a good school. I’ve had two kids that signed there previously before I came here,” he said. “Both of them are coaches now. It’s a good school and it has a good wrestling program and will give him a good wrestling background. The coach up there was very excited about Evan when he met him. So we’re looking forward to great things for him. I think it’s going to be a great, great situation for him.”