For at least nine months out of each of the last four years, Ethan Wampler put in about 20 hours a week working toward a single goal.
He almost reached it, too.
The Richmond Hill High School senior finished second in the 120 pound weight class at the state Class AAAAA wrestling tournament Saturday in Macon, ending a sterling prep career in which Wampler became the first Wildcat ever to be a state runner up.
“It still kind of bothers me that I lost,” Wampler said two days after falling in the title match against unbeaten Andrew Geigerich of Clarke Central. “I try not to think about it, but it’s just kind of there. You hoped and hoped and worked so hard all year, and all the years before that, and then you fall short. It’s hard, especially being a senior and knowing it’s your last year.”
Not just last high school year. Wampler was clear this is his last year as a competitive wrestler.
“I used to want to wrestle in college,” he said. “Now I just want to go to college and get my education. Maybe go to Armstrong or somewhere like that.”
Regardless of whether he suits up again or not, Wampler, a military kid and the son of William and Larrin Wampler, has left quite a legacy at Richmond Hill High School in three seasons.
After wrestling as a freshman at Bloomington North, Wampler’s first year as a Wildcat resulted in a trip to the state sectionals. He finished eighth in the state last year as a junior, then turned in this seasons’ runner-up finish. His career record is 146-24 and he was a leader this season for veteran Alabama high school wrestling coach Robert Parker, who came out of retirement to coach the Wildcats this winter.
“It is fun to watch him work on the mat, he is smooth and doesn’t get flustered,” Parker said of Wampler. “He chains moves together.”
Parker also had praise for Wampler as a person.
“He is a teacher to young and experienced wrestlers in the mat room,” Parker said,. “He doesn’t try to show anyone up and is always willing to help them. He will be missed.”
Wampler’s second-place finish at 120, and teammate Zach Perez’s fifth place showing, led the Wildcats to a 20th place finish in the state traditional tournament. Not bad for a program in its seventh year.
“I feel like I’ve set a bar,” Wampler said. “And I guess it is nice having that. But I would love for Zach Perez or Grant Foy or one of the other guys on the team to win state. That would be amazing.”
Read more in the Feb. 20 edition of the News.