“My dad just said, ‘You’re wrestling.’ That’s all he said.”

Cedar Cliff’s Michael Cassidy is a solid 132-pounder who was put into wrestling early on. After he brought home a flyer with a bunch of sports he could play, his dad gave it one look and pointed to wrestling.

Not hockey, not soccer. Just wrestling.

Cassidy did participate in football through middle school — a sport he says he was “alright” at — but he dropped it his freshman year of high school to focus on wrestling. The junior has come a long way from when he first started.

His records aren’t eye-poping; it’d be easy for an opponent to look past him. As a sophomore he finished 22-15 and last year he went 13-13.

He used to look at brackets, study them intensely and worry about how he needed to go out and wrestle against an opponent. The stress of always focusing on specific wrestlers and brackets weighed on him, and those toxic thoughts hindered his ability to wrestle at his best.

Cassidy was knocked out of the second round of consolations in the District 3 Class 3A individual championships in 2017. This is when he realized something wasn’t working.

“Last year I was freaking out, looking at the brackets and seeing who I would wrestle,” Cassidy said. “This year, I didn’t really care. I just wrestle my best, and I just try and get a win.

“I would always look at the bracket and just worry about who I’m wrestling. This year I don’t care if he’s bigger than me, I’ll just go out and wrestle. This year I’ve also been bumping up a lot to [138 and 145].”

Along with worrying about bracket placements, Cassidy was also worrying about cutting weight, maintaining weight and making weight. The constant struggle to stay around the 132-pound mark weighed on him, and it showed.

“He actually cut a lot of weight last year at the end, and the year before, too,” Colts head coach Rob Rapsey said. “There’s kids that can cut weight and it works out, then there’s kids where it’s hurting them because they’re not able to focus on their wrestling. I would say the weight loss that he had to put himself through last year affected him also.”

After being knocked out early on last season, Cassidy took the time to focus and find out what he needed to do to get where he wanted to be. He began forcing himself to focus less on brackets and worry less about cutting weight.

Both of these factors allowed Cassidy to focus on the mat and show everyone what he could actually do.

It’s worked. Cassidy has racked up a 19-1 record so far this season, helping the Colts win a District 3 Class 3A team title on Saturday.

“The difference from this year is I haven’t been cutting any weight. I would be tired and everything [last year],” Cassidy said. “This year there’s a big difference for me from last year.”

Cassidy’s diet has also changed since he dropped his strict weight-cutting diet. According to him, he eats whatever he wants but does not drink an ounce of soda.

There’s also a tradition he’s adopted.

“Before a wrestling match, like the day before, I have this a tradition where I have a chocolate milk and a bath. I’ve been doing that all year,” Cassidy said with a laugh.

The routine seems to be working, and Cassidy has his sights set on getting past districts and into states when the individual postseason arrives next week with the District 3 Sectional Individual Wrestling Championships.

But that comes after one more week of team wrestling.

The Colts face off against District 1’s Spring-Ford at 8 p.m. at Giant Center in Thursday’s first round of the PIAA Class 3A Wrestling Team Championships.

“We just have to out-wrestle [everybody] really, just do our best and get the farthest out of all the teams,” Cassidy said.

The Colts have been pushing a team first-mentality since, well, forever.

A quote hangs in the Cedar Cliff wrestling room that reads, “For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother forever.” For Cassidy — or “Mikey,” to some on the team — putting the team first has never really been a problem.

“This season he’s definitely been able to keep a great pace all match,” 182-pounder Donovon Ball said. “Last year he cut a lot of weight, and I think that hurt him a bit. But other than that he’s the same wrestler.

“He’s able to loosen the tension on the team, always having fun, and we as a team are able to feed off of that in big matches or in practice. He helps us have fun.”

“He’s a team player, he does whatever’s needed for the team,” Rapsey said. “He’s basically like, ‘Whatever you need me to do, coach.’ It’s not even a question.”

From the beginning and through all of the struggles Cassidy has come through, he’ll always remember what his dad told him. The reason why he picked wrestling over everything else.

“He always said that wrestling is the hardest work there is,” Cassidy said. “It teaches you a whole bunch of stuff like hard work, the right mentality and stuff like that.”

And, finally, he has the right mentality.

Email Mallory at mmerda@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @MalloryMerda

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter at The Sentinel.

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