Favorite athlete: Joel Embiid
Favorite team: Philadelphia 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Getting 100 career wins.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Having a teammate ask what time the bus leaves for districts after setting up the gym for it.
Music on mobile device: Rap/Classic Rock
Future plans: Wrestle in college and major in finance/business.
Words to live by: Never make the same mistake.
One goal before turning 30: Attend a baseball game at all 30 MLB stadiums.
One thing people don’t know about me: I like collecting baseball cards.
By Ed Morrone
Corey Cope’s biggest moment as a high school wrestler may have been slightly anticlimactic, but the journey to get to that point has been anything but.
Earlier this winter, Cope became the 19th wrestler in Quakertown history to reach the 100-win milestone. It was perhaps the easiest win of his four-year varsity career, as Cope earned the victory on a forfeit. The moment itself might have lacked fanfare, but it by no means diminished the accomplishment Cope had been working his whole life to attain.
“It’s always been a goal of mine, one that I knew would be tough to reach,” the senior said. “I think I only had 15 wins my freshman year, so I really had to step it up. It’s something me and my parents always strived for, and it was the culmination of a lot of hard work that I put in.
"I knew it was going to happen this year, but even when it did, it didn’t hit home immediately. Afterward I thought about it and was like, ‘Wow, 100 wins; not a lot of people can do that,' and it means the world to me and my family. It will be there forever, and everyone will be able to see my name up there. It means a lot.”
Cope began wrestling at the tender age of four after his father signed him up after receiving a letter in the mail regarding youth registration. He fell in love with the sport right away and wrestled regularly until sixth grade, when Cope traded in the wrestling mat for a baseball glove. He deeply loved baseball too, but being away from wrestling for his middle school years gnawed at Cope.
He knew he had to jump back in for round two.
“I missed it so much and knew I had to get back into it,” Cope said.
After a couple of years of inactivity, one might expect Cope to have difficulties re-adjusting. There were growing pains, sure, but the transition back into wrestling felt natural. Quakertown head wrestling coach Kurt Handel described Cope as “your typical freshman, a light kid with no real muscle or body structure to him.” But even so, Handel saw glimpses of greatness in Cope almost immediately.
“When he gets out on that mat, he’s a technically sound wrestler,” Handel said. “He didn’t have the strength he has now right away, so he made up for that with technique. He’s very slick. Not really a power guy who will hammer you into submission, but more a kid who will take advantage of any bad move his opponent makes.”
In addition to reaching the 100-win plateau, Cope also ranks fifth in school history with 54 pins. But just because he has pins in more than half of his wins doesn’t necessarily mean he’s evolved into a wrestler who attacks with brute force. If anything, Cope said his maturation has helped him be more patient, allowing him to wait for his moment to pounce.
“I’m definitely not a big, super aggressor, not someone who will go bang my head against the other wrestler’s face,” he said. “I try to stay calm. Aggressive, but not overly aggressive. I try to use my speed and technique to bait my opponent into a mistake. Being a hothead is not my style, because I don’t want to go out there and lose my mind. Staying calm has worked for me my whole life, so I’m going to stick with it.”
Sticking with what works is probably the best play for Cope as he nears the finish line in his stellar career. A two-year captain, Cope has been a part of three consecutive SOL Continental championship teams. According to Handel, Cope has twice earned first-team all-league honors and was a district qualifier his sophomore season before advancing to regionals.
With districts on deck, Cope, who wrestles in the 120-pound weight class, is hoping for another strong showing and another advancement to regionals, to be held the following weekend. The next logical step in the progression would be to qualify for states, which is the one accomplishment Cope has yet to check off his wrestling bucket list.
“I definitely want to get to Hershey,” he said. “It’s been a dream of mine forever for me and my parents. My weight class this year is tough, state-wide, but I want to prove that I belong with the rest of those guys. I think I’m one of the best wrestlers in the state, and I want to go out there and show that. Not a lot of people get to experience that, so getting to states would be a lot of fun.”
Despite all of his accomplishments on the mat, Cope is much more than just a wrestler for Quakertown. Additionally, he’s been a member of the school golf team for four years, the last two as a full-time varsity player. He didn’t start golfing until about a month before freshman year tryouts, but Cope proved to be a quick study. On the golf course, Cope gets to enjoy a lower-intensity sport for a change, but he also said he’s drawn to golf because just like in wrestling, it’s very much an individual sport that demands accountability from its players.
“Just like in wrestling, it’s just you out there swinging that club,” he said. “It’s just you and nobody else, so it becomes a matter of how much work are you willing to put in to be successful.”
Cope is also a strong student and is leaning toward studying business or finance in college. Last summer, he enrolled in a week-long program at Lycoming College called Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, which teaches young people the ins and outs of running a business.
Speaking of college, Lycoming is one of four schools that Cope is considering. In addition to Lycoming, fellow Division-III institutions Delaware Valley, Western New England and Gettysburg are all courting Cope to attend school and wrestle for the next four years.
“Kudos to him,” Handel said. “He’s put in a ton of work the last four years, and he’s got a tough decision coming up. But he’s got options, and that’s the payout. As coaches we tell high school kids that if you work hard, it will pay off in the long run, and Corey is the perfect example of that.”
When Cope is not wrestling, golfing or hitting the books, he’s still an enormous baseball fan and loves consuming the sport even though he no longer plays competitively. He said a goal of his before he turns 30 is to see a game at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums; so far, he’s only been to games in Philadelphia, Baltimore and at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, but the exposure has been enough to show him he wants to experience every ballpark the sport has to offer.
Not only that, but Cope also shared that he was a big baseball card collector, which was somewhat of a surprise to hear given baseball card collecting has become somewhat archaic in an age of ubiquitous technology.
“I stopped around fourth grade and didn’t get back into collecting again until high school, but I love collecting,” Cope said. “It’s cool to complete the sets, and I love buying boxes of cards and opening up packs. We have a card shop right in Quakertown, so I don’t have to travel far to stop in and pick up some new cards. I collect some basketball too; I opened a pack once that had an autographed Kobe Bryant card worth a couple of hundred bucks in it. I was so happy when I pulled that.”
This weekend, Cope will begin his final push. At most, he’ll have three weekends left of high school wrestling, and while he hopes to end his career on a podium in Hershey with a state medal around his neck, Cope also wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, no matter what conclusion it reaches.
“I had a lot of fun, and that’s the most important thing to me,” Cope said. “I know I’ll look back on this time in 10, 20, 30 years and I’ll always be able to say I had a great time with people who will be my friends forever. When next season comes around, I’ll miss just being a part of the Quakertown community.
“I’ve lived here and wrestled here my whole life. I’ve been around the same kids, and next year will be the first time I won’t be wrestling with a lot of them. It will be different, just because being here is so natural for me. Next season I’ll be wrestling with kids from all over the state and even the country, whether I’m four hours away at Western New England or an hour away at one of the other schools. I’ll miss my friends and being in this area the most, and I’ll always remember here was where I learned the hard work that became a really good life lesson.
“That kind of discipline that wrestling teaches you, it’s going to prepare me for anything that comes my way for the rest of my life.”