EGG HARBOR TWP. – Ethan Wilson grimaced in pain as he went through his post-match routine on Friday night.
The Washington Township High School freshman went through his usual cool-down routine. He slowly jumped rope as one of his coaches timed his workout, knowing that each second meant he could maintain his status in the 106-pound weight class at the NJSIAA Region 8 tournament at Egg Harbor Township High School.
“That’s it,” head coach Eric Ring said. “I can’t watch this anymore.”
Ring walked up to his protegee and removed the tape on his wrestlers’ right ear. Wilson, seeded third, and advanced to the 106-pound semifinals with a 3-0 decision over Woodstown’s Cameron Morgan in the quarterfinals, has developed a case of cauliflower ear. For the uninitiated, it’s as painful as it sounds, but at this time of year, Wilson will tell you everyone is battling something.
“I’ve never had it before,” said Wilson, who will resume his pursuit of a region title on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. against St. Augustine sophomore and No. 2 seed Ryan Defoney in the semifinal round. “It started to hurt (last week before districts) and I told my dad. He asked coach and, yeah, it’s cauliflower.
“I got it drained yesterday but it’s so bad it already blew up again.”
To his credit, Wilson worked through any discomfort in an impressive showing against Morgan. In fact, Wilson (26-8) approached the match like he has every match this year.
“He’s really a special kid,” said Ring, who knows something about success at Township where he won over 100 matches at the turn of the century. “He’s the kid that just does everything right. He’s a student of the sport, but he’s beyond that too. He’s a great student and he’s the current student of the month. He’s the type of wrestler that you build a program on.”
To talk with Wilson is to understand how passionate he is about the sport. A week ago, Saturday, after he secured a District 30 title, Wilson didn’t hesitate to get back to work. In fact, on Sunday morning the 14-year old got chauffeured to the Philadelphia Art Museum where he ran not just the “Rocky” steps, but up the various inclines around the tourist destination.
“I don’t think he questioned it for a second,” Ring said. “He just did it.”
Wilson isn’t afraid of the work. That holds true in the classroom as well where he is in a full slate of honor’s courses and he expects nothing but success because that’s what his schedule demands.
“It’s not that bad once you get used to it,” Wilson said. “I just do the same thing every day. I wake up at 5:30. I study for anything coming up that week. I go to school. After school I go to practice. When I get home at six (o’clock) I go straight to my homework or eat dinner. Then to the gym or club practice depending on what day it is. I just do that every day.
“I usually get some free time on weekends.”
The thing is, Wilson admits he’d have it no other way. Over and over, the youngster will remind you that he does this because he loves the sport and he’s looking to make a difference. It had been close to a decade since the Minutemen made it to the state tournament when they qualified as the eighth seed this year.
But small victories are not what Wilson is about and he never stops looking forward.
“There really is no time to stop working,” said Wilson, who is 2-for-2 on making the principal’s list. “This year we made the playoffs and that’s great but we need to do better. Think of the New England Patriots. They have a standard. They are so good because they have a standard higher than everyone else. That’s what we want to build and do at Washington Township.”