BY JEREMY HINES
For the Daily Reporter

CHARLOTTESVILLE — There was a time when Clayton Cochard didn’t know if he’d make the varsity wrestling team. Now, as an Eastern Hancock senior, Cochard won sectional, advanced out of regional and will compete in the New Castle semistate Saturday.

Royal wrestling coach Keith Oliver credits Cochard’s patience as one of the main reasons he’s been able to find success this season.

“I think, for Clayton, patience is by far his biggest strength in wrestling,” Oliver said. “He doesn’t try something he knows won’t be there. He’s patient on the mat. He’s fine with winning a match 4-3 if he has to.

“For wrestlers, that is tough sometimes to have that patience. On a regular basis you get nervous and want to make something happen. But Clayton doesn’t force things. He waits for his chance.”

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Cochard’s patience extends past the competitive matches. When he first started wrestling as a freshman he was pretty far behind most of his peers in the sport. Up until that year Cochard had been a swimmer. But, he wanted to try something different, so he went out for wrestling.

That first season Cochard lost more matches than he won. He finished 6-8 against junior varsity competition.

He didn’t give up though. He kept working, kept practicing and by his sophomore year he was starting to win more than he lost.

“I found out right away that wrestling was going to be difficult,” Cochard said. “It was going to be tough keeping up with the others. But I really liked the sport, and I wanted to get better.”

As a junior Cochard finally earned his varsity spot. He competed in the 182-pound weight class and finished the season with a 22-6 record. Despite his improvements, he finished fifth in the Shenandoah Sectional — just one spot short of advancing to regional.

Those losses started to weigh on Cochard’s mind. He had worked so hard to improve, yet he still hadn’t been able to advance out of sectional. He entered his senior season lacking the usual enthusiasm he once had.

“The first few weeks of practice you could tell that his heart just wasn’t in it,” Oliver said. “Early on we had a two-hour practice, and I spent almost the whole practice talking to Clayton. I told him to do his best, and the successes would come.”

Oliver was right. Cochard found a renewed passion for the sport, and four years of hard work finally started to pay off.

Cochard enters Saturday’s semistate with a 33-8 record. He won sectional in dominating fashion and then finished second last week in the Perry Meridian Regional at 195 pounds.

“Winning sectional was an amazing feeling,” Cochard said. “I had never even thought about it. It wasn’t in my sights. I never thought I was good enough to win. Then, all of a sudden it happened.”

Coach Oliver wasn’t surprised.

“Clayton shows what can happen when you put your mind to something,” Oliver said. “Wrestling is hands down one of the best sports for teaching kids discipline and how to work to achieve your goals. It’s not a sport everyone can do. It’s hard. It’s a battle. You have to eat right. You have to exercise. You have to take care of your body.

“Wrestling matches are six-minute fights. It’s that hardest sport anyone is ever going to do. But, if you do it, and you give it everything you have, you’re going to be better because of it.”

Cochard agrees.

“I joined wrestling just to do something different and because my friends were trying it,” Cochard said. “Looking back I see that this has been one of the happiest experiences in my life.

At a glance

Hancock County Semistate Qualifiers

at New Castle H.S., Saturday at 9 a.m.

106: Christian White, New Palestine (33-8)

113: Dylan Dorman, Greenfield-Central (26-15)

120: Chase Wilkerson, Mt. Vernon (37-4)

120: Gavin Rose, Greenfield-Central (31-3)

126: Larry Evans, Greenfield-Central (24-12)

132: Chris Wilkerson, Mt. Vernon (34-7)

132: Carter Noehre, Greenfield-Central (27-0)

145: Noah Wright, New Palestine (31-11)

145: Cooper Noehre, Greenfield-Central (30-9)

152: Jordyn Wills, Eastern Hancock (32-11)

160: Drake Kendrex, Mt. Vernon (38-6)

170: Brad Lowe, Greenfield-Central (37-3)

182: P.J. Sterrett, Mt. Vernon (40-7)

195: Brayden Clevenger, New Palestine (32-11)

195: Clayton Cochard, Eastern Hancock (33-8)

220: Landan Burton, New Palestine (40-1)