Martin Cosgrove’s first season in high school wrestling was a successful one — he finished third in the state — but it was also a learning experience.
In the Region 7 tournament 13 months ago, Cosgrove advanced to the semifinals in a 170-pound bracket that included the two wrestlers who would square off in the state finals a week later, Paulsboro’s Brandon Green and Howell’s Shane Reitsma. Cosgrove fell to Reitsma, 3-1. Reitsma went on to beat Green in the Region finals before falling to Green in the state finals.
“That definitely told me that I was good enough to compete with the guys at the highest level at that weight and I knew I could do well at states,” Cosgrove said.
As a sophomore he came back smarter, hungrier and better conditioned. It’s not that he wasn’t already in tip-top shape — Camden Catholic prides itself on stamina and physical fitness — but Cosgrove decided to push himself even farther this winter.
“He works hard, his father really had him ready before he got to high school,” Camden Catholic coach Matt Walsh said. “He’s a kid who puts a lot of time in. Even after practice he’s still going, grabbing a medicine ball and doing sprints with it after everyone else is done.”
Two Saturdays ago at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, the longtime site of the NJSIAA state championships, Cosgrove took his physical and mental preparation and delivered a memorable performance.
Cosgrove fought off a takedown from Brick Memorial’s David Szuba in the final 30 seconds of the 195-pound title match, and endured a wild final 10 seconds — when the referee’s mistake led to confusion and a healthy dose of crowd boos — to capture the 10th individual state crown in Camden Catholic’s storied history.
For his efforts, Cosgrove, who went 40-1 this season and boasts an impressive 79-10 mark through his first two high school seasons, is South Jersey Sports Weekly’s Boys Wrestler of the Year.
“It honestly made me speechless, standing up there and looking at everybody,” Cosgrove said of the feeling atop the podium in Atlantic City during the medal ceremony. “Downstairs in the (Camden Catholic) wrestling room, there are pictures of all of the district champs, region champs and state champs. Just looking at that state champ wall, ever since I looked at it, I knew I wanted to be a person on that wall. So it’s inspiring.”
— CC Irish Wrestling (@FightingIrishCC) March 10, 2020
Cosgrove could probably have done without the boos, of course, even if they weren’t directed at him.
In the final seconds of his state championship match, Cosgrove was awarded a point when his opponent was called for stalling, breaking a tie on the scoreboard … except the referee held up the wrong hand. The point was accidentally given to his opponent by the people running the scoreboard before the ref had the opportunity to correct himself.
So, naturally, when the final buzzer sounded, there were boos. It wasn’t exactly the scenario Cosgrove envisioned when he dreamed of winning a state title, but he also was critical of himself for getting into that position in the first place, on his back in the closing minute of a match he had been winning.
“I felt like I was in control most of the match … I shouldn’t have even put myself in that situation,” he said. “But it’s definitely a motivation to try not to get booed next year; that’s not what I was going for this year.”
Even if the booing was directed at the officiating, it wasn’t ideal. Walsh had the perfect words for Cosgrove as he tried to make sense of it all in what should have been a more celebratory moment.
“Yeah, you may have lost a few seconds there where it was a little confusing, but you’re going to have a state title your whole life,” Walsh told his wrestler. “You’re going to be fine.”
— Tom McGurk (@McGurkSports) February 29, 2020
Cosgrove, who credited teammates and partners Harrison Hinojosa and Hunter Suter for pushing him daily in practice and assistant coach T.J. Miller for keeping his confidence up, is more than fine. He is now set up to try something no wrestler in school history has achieved: win three state titles.
The Irish have had two two-time state champions: Lucas Revano and Taylor Walsh.
“It’ll make history,” said Cosgrove, who also helped the Irish collect a second straight Parochial B state title, the 16th in school history.
Cosgrove would love to three-peat, but he is also smart enough and humble enough to know it’s not as simple as showing up in each of the next two years. So he’ll continue to bring the same work ethic into the wrestling room as a junior.
“Even when we’re warming up,” he said, “while everyone else is jogging, I’m trying to run harder than everyone else.”
It’s a champion’s mentality.
“It is hard to win a second, but once you’ve been there you’ve realized you can do it, which makes it a little more achievable,” said Walsh, who coached both Revano and Taylor Walsh, his son. “But I think Martin has an excellent opportunity. He’s just a good all-around kid: He’s very humble, he wins a match and he’s not pointing at the kid or doing anything, he’s helping him up and shaking his hand. He’s a very easy kid to coach.”