As the Walker Valley wrestling program continues to grow in maturity and numbers, it stands to reason the number of Mustang wrestlers that will be moving to the college level will increase also.
The number of Mustangs headed to the next level increased by two Wednesday when Lawrence Cotton and Drake Haney signed scholarship papers to wrestle for Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
“Lawrence has been here four years and Drake transfered in two years ago. Both of them have been very hard working on the mat and in the classroom. I’m real excited they are going to get to continue their wrestling careers. That is something they wanted to do and I’m glad they have this opportunity,” said Mustangs wrestling coach Alan Morris.
Cotton and Haney will wrestle for MTSU in the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the National College Wrestling Association where they will be expected to perform at a high level for the Raiders wrestling team.
“We expect by the end of there college careers to be four-time national qualifiers an All-American. That’s why we go out and get guys like them. They are going to come in a compete for a starting spot immediately. We go out and get people we feel can contribute immediately and be qualifiers, champions and All-Americans and Academic All-Americans more than anything else,” said MTSU assistant coach Troy Steffy who also said the duo is just what MTSU looks for in wrestlers.
“Coach Morris reached out to us and the first thing we noticed is they fit exactly with the weight classes we are going to have open next year. Drake is not used to wrestling that big but we know he can wrestle. It’s the same thing with Lawrence. We watched him in the region and state tournament. We know what he can do. They can come in immediately, contribute and better us.”
Haney, who will wrestle for the Blue Raiders at 125 pounds said MTSU is the perfect fit for him athletically as well as academically.
“As a student I will be able to get my four year degree in biology and hopefully get into medical school or become a marine biologist. As a wrestler I hope to place in the NCWA nationals,” said Haney.
Cotton will take to the mat in the 174-weight class and will study mechanical engineering. He said Murfreesboro is the perfect fit for him and he hopes to excel on the mat as well as in the classroom.
"It's a great college and I appreciate the opportunity to continue my wrestling career. I'm really have a passion for wrestling and just being given the opportunity to take it to the next level and wrestle for another four or five years is amazing," he said.
"I expect myself to bring a lot to the team. I've really pushed myself in wrestling. I'm always working to find the top in wrestling and I don't think I've hit my peak yet. I'm still striving to get better every day, still continuing to train. I expect myself to be a great athlete and a great student academically."
Morris said Haney and Cotton will only get better as they mature and grow on the mat. The higher level of academics and athletics will only serve to motivate them to be their best for themselves, family and school.
“They’ve done very well competing at the level they wrestle. They’ve done some good things. I think they are getting two good student athletes that are willing to continue to put in the effort and time like they have in high school. Obviously, it will be a little harder academically and athletically. But I think their potential is still untapped. I think they can both grow as wrestlers,” he said.
Haney said his journey to the college level began when MTSU saw him wrestle at the Region 3 wrestling tournament. From there, a visit to Murfreesboro to check out facilities and academics led to his decision to make Middle Tennessee his home for the next four years.
“I was wrestling in the region finals and after there were guys from MTSU her to watch Lawrence. They asked me if I was interested in wrestling there and I told them I would look into it. I finished sixth at the state tournament and the MTSU coach contacted me. I went and visited and decided to go there and wrestle. They have all the programs I want. It’s a great campus and great school. I’m really excited about it,” he said.
Cotton said his decision to go to MTSU started at the region tournament and the final choice was made after considering the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"MTSU came to me after the Region 4 tournament and after that we really started talking to them I was convinced I wanted to go there," said the future Blue Raider.
"After college I want to land a good, solid job in engineering at a company around Murfreesboro and probably settle down in that area. I already have plans for the summer to do internships at electrical and mechanical companies."