March 20, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Army standout wrestler Cole Gracey was selected as the EIWA Freshman of the Year, it was announced by the organization on Monday. The award was handed out following a vote of the league's head coaches.
"I am honored to receive this distinction, especially since it is voted on by the coaches of the EIWA," said Gracey. "This conference is one of the toughest in the country, and to be selected out of such a talented class means a great deal to me.
"I believe that this distinction is a direct reflection of the coaches and team here at Army, and proves that Army wrestling is on the rise," added Gracey. "Personally, I hope to take the success from this season and improve on it next year."
Gracey is the first Black Knight wrestler to earn EIWA Freshman of the Year honors since Darrel Nerove won the award in 1985. He capped his first season at West Point by becoming just the fourth Army freshman in the last 25 years to qualify for the NCAA Championships. The 165-pounder finished his plebe campaign with an overall record of 25-15.
A native of Tuttle, Okla., Gracey began the year as a back-up after losing his wrestle-off match to sophomore Alex Smith. He was 7-11 before finishing the season by winning 18 of his final 22 bouts. He automatically qualified for the national tournament after placing third in the 165-pound bracket at the EIWA Championships.
Gracey ranked among Army's leaders this season with 25 victories, seven pins, three major decisions and one technical fall. His 11 bonus-point victories listed tied for second on the team. His incredible rookie year also included individual titles at the New York State Championships and All-Academy Championships.
"Cole is one of the most coachable young men I have ever seen in the wrestling room," said Army head coach Joe Heskett. "Not only is Cole extremely teachable, he relentlessly executes what he was taught and forces himself to feel as comfortable as possible with his new found techniques."
Gracey points to his victory over Columbia's Eren Civan during the teams' dual match on Jan. 14 as a monumental turning point. Gracey posted a 10-8 come-from-behind victory over Civan, who was an NCAA qualifier last season.
"I was down by four points late in the third period, but I was able to get a late takedown and near-fall to win the match," said Gracey. "I proved to myself with that win that I could fight through matches and compete against the best competition in the country. It was after the match that I began to consistently win the tough matches that had given me problems before."