COLUMBIA — For each of the last three seasons, the Hickman wrestling team has had a wrestler win a state championship. Tony Pescaglia won state championships in 2005 and 2006. K.C. Pescaglia won state championships in 2006, in a different weight class than his brother, and 2007.
Hickman senior Drae Cox wants to add his name to that list this season and make it four consecutive seasons.
After placing fourth in the 152-pound weight class last season, Cox has set a goal to finish the 2007-08 season undefeated, concluding it with a championship victory.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Cox said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was six, and to be a state champ has been my goal since I was about 10 years old. It’s just something that I really wanted to do.”
Following the state tournament in February, Hickman coach J.D. Coffman has noticed Cox’s determination to improve and become a top-notch wrestler.
“He’s trained intently,” Coffman said. “Every month, he’s been in the weight room and he’s been on the mat conditioning his body, trying to get ready for this season.”
Cox wants to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Phil Arnold, who also wrestled at Hickman. Arnold was a state champion in the 171-pound weight class in 1990 and 1991, and Cox uses his uncle’s accomplishment as inspiration to become the second person in his family to become a state champion.
“My grandma watched my uncle wrestle, and when (my brother and I) were little, she took me out to watch him wrestle,” Cox said.
It wasn’t long after that Cox decided he wanted to become a wrestler, wearing the same purple and yellow colors his uncle wore while at Hickman.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a Hickman wrestler,” Cox said. “I’ve been able to do that for the last four years. This is my last year of being here and it’s been a lot of memories.”
This season, Cox is one of three captains for the Kewpies. Now in his third season as a captain, Cox was inspired by his older brother, Zach Arnold, who was a captain as a senior when Cox was a freshman on the squad.
“I watched everybody look up to him, so that’s something I wanted to model from him,” Cox said. “It’s really nice to have that recognition and it shows that you’re a leader.”
By being a team captain, Cox hopes that the younger wrestlers on the team are able to look up to him and follow his lead as a successful wrestler.
“You’re out there and you have to set the standard,” Cox said. “In my matches, when I’m aggressive, I hope that people see that aggressiveness and they sort of use it and imitate it somehow. Maybe it will help them somewhere.”
In Hickman’s dual match against Helias on Dec. 4, Cox handled the Crusaders’ Seth Jacobs with ease.
Cox overmatched his opponent early in the match. He went on the offensive by lifting Jacobs high off the mat before dropping to a knee and slamming his opponent back down to the floor like a rag doll. It only took Cox 1:27 to record a pin.
“As soon as the whistle blows, you go as hard as you can for six minutes,” Cox said.
Instead of preparing by stretching before his match, Cox likes to take an alternative approach to get himself ready for his opponent.
“Before my matches, I take about 10 minutes to get ready,” Cox said. “I listen to my music and I just zone everybody else out and I’m just thinking about my match. That’s just the way that I wrestle.”
But when he’s out there on the mat during a match, don’t bother asking him what is going through his mind. You’ll get the same answer every time.
“I really don’t think about anything,” Cox said. “Once you get to a certain level, you just go through it. Sometimes I have to watch my matches to remember what I did because I was just out there and I was in the zone.”
Cox said that his tendency to strive to accomplish as a wrestler carries over into the classroom. Last season, he earned Academic All-State honors from the Missouri Wrestling Association.
“Ever since Kids Club (wrestling), one of my coaches talked about how everything that you use on the mat can go back to your class work,” Cox said. “You’re working hard to get a good grade. It’s all a big circle.”
Coffman agrees that if an athlete displays determination, then most times it will carry over into academics as well.
“Drae has always done a good job in academics,” Coffman said. “I think because he has done a good job in the classroom and has done a good job in wrestling, they both play off of one another and just add to his characteristic about being disciplined and committed to excellence.”
It will be a tough task for Cox to accomplish his goal of becoming a state champion. Each of the three wrestlers who placed ahead of him last season at the state tournament will be returning for a senior season.
But that won’t bother Cox. Now people are aware of his ability.
“This year, I think they’re looking out for me more,” Cox said. “Undefeated state champ, all the way.”