CHATHAM, NJ - Brian Cassera has seen some very talented wrestlers hit a mental roadblock and never quite reach their potential.
"It's funny because that's the biggest thing that a lot of kids can't get over, the mental part of it," the Chatham wrestling coach said. "It's not just losing a match that can shake a kid's confidence. You can get taken down or if anything goes wrong in a match, they can't recover. It's very rare when that doesn't get into a kid's head at some point."
One of those rare wrestlers with an unshakable mental attitude might be Connor Cortese.
The Cougar freshman leads the team in wins and pins, notching seven falls at 113 pounds while compiling a 12-4 mark thus far this season.
"You never see him change the way he wrestles," Cassera said. "He doesn't take the last match with him. No matter what happens, he's just as confident. He's the same every match. He doesn't seem to get frustrated. I think it's just innate. It's just, you are who you are."
Connor Cortese is the Hawk Allstate Athlete of the Week.
On Dec. 23, Cortese made his varsity debut for Chatham and 37 seconds later he was walking off the mat as the victor in his match at Madison. He hasn't slowed down since.
"He's relentless," Cassera said. "When you watch him, he’s not really as technical as he could be. He is just really tough. He doesn’t care who he is wrestling. He’s not even big for his weight class, but he never stops and keeps improving his position. We're working on broadening his repertoire."
Cortese began wrestling in first grade and never stopped. A year ago, he qualified for the states as an eighth grader. Now he has his sights set on making a mark in the NJSIAA districts.
"I like the feeling that comes with winning," Cortese said. "I don't know if I'm peaking or anything. There's still a lot of the season to go and I just want to keep improving. I'm a smaller kid, so I've learned over the years to never give up."
Cortese didn't really know what to expect of his first high school season. He admits he needs to work on improving his shots and escaping from the bottom position. But he's also proud of the fact that he hasn't been pinned yet in his young career.
"I'm proud of my record," Cortese said. "I want to do well in districts this year, that's when it matters."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.