A year ago Timmy Ward couldn’t even be around his teammates during wrestling season.
While the Canton Warriors were wrestling, Ward was going through chemo, and hospital stays after finding out he had cancer.
In his mind, Ward always was ready to get back to wrestling, but he knew there were much more important things in life to worry about.
This year, Ward is back. And he couldn’t be happier to return to wrestling.
“It’s great to be able to wrestle with my friends, just to be in the atmosphere, it’s just great to be back and having fun,” Ward said.
“It sucked (Not being around the sport last year), but my friends and knew and I knew I had stuff going on and I had to get it figured out so this year I could come back and enjoy it with them.”
After everything he went through, Ward is now looking at things a little differently.
“It gives you a whole new perspective on everything,” Ward said. “When you sit in the hospital you think, dang I wish I was out wrestling, or doing anything. Now that I’m here it makes the whole mental part so much easier and you can just be more relaxed out there competing.”
Before last year Ward was like most high school kids.
he felt like he was young, healthy and invincible. Now, he’s got a whole new outlook on everything.
“it’s super scary,” Ward said. “Growing up you are going with the flow, you have a young mind, nothing can stop you. Then you go to the doctors and they tell you there is a chance maybe you can’t wrestle next year. There is a chance you can’t see your friends anymore and it’s a very scary experience and not only does it change your perspective, but it makes you aware that you don’t know what can happen tomorrow. You might not have a future, just live for today and have fun.”
Ward has been dominant in his return to the mats this year. But, there have been some setbacks. He lost in a tournament earlier this year, and he got beat by Cael Crebs of Montoursville on Saturday.
For Ward, losing has always been hard. He is very competitive, and losses get to him. But, after everything he went through, Ward now realizes that one loss isn’t the biggest deal.
“I have always been competitive, I’m still competitive,” Ward said. “But losing, it happens, in life period. No matter what it is, in sports, you are going to lose football games, you are going to lose wrestling matches, you are going to lose baseball games. You have to learn how to build off those loses. You can’t wrap yourself up in worrying about the past. You have to think about now and how you can improve yourself every day.
“Even at home, playing backyard football, I’m a horrible loser. Board games, horrible loser. Playing on the Wii, horrible loser, and I’m sure my sisters can tell you that. Now, in that tournament I lost a match, and I woke up the next day ready to wrestle another match.”
One of the toughest parts of wrestling is the mental aspect of the sport. For Ward, that part isn’t as hard right now. After what he’s been through, the stress of wrestling doesn’t get to him the same way anymore.
“Just being out there is a blast, I like it,” Ward said. “Wrestling is a hard sport, after what I went through it’s a piece of cake. I just appreciate being with my teammates, with my friends and everyone here who comes to support us, it’s amazing. Overall it’s a fun time.”
One of the things Ward saw over the past year was how much the wrestling community came out to support him.
It wasn’t just in Canton, it was throughout the NTL, district and state. And, while he’s back wrestling, Ward has formed new bonds with people throughout the NTL.
“It’s awesome, not only Canton, but all the communities surrounding it and the whole District 4,” Ward said. “You can’t thank everyone enough for what they did for me. It’s a friendly competition these days. Wyalusing (Who Canton wrestled recently), I have a lot of friends from Wyalusing. It’s great to go out and compete with them. Once you get on the mat, someone has to win, and I don’t like losing. And, they know that to, they are trying to beat me to, but it’s fun to be able to go out and compete against my friends.
“Everyone helped support me, everyone from all kinds of schools tried to help me in every way they could and it means the world to me. it’s cool to be able to compete against these teams now. it’s something you can’t put into words, it’s pretty cool.”
Being back is special, but Ward knows he has to keep working to get better.
“It’s awesome,” Ward said of being back. “I can’t settle with where I am now, every day I just have to work to improve. There are a lot of high caliber kids around here and I have to work as hard as I can.
“My goal is to be at the top of the podium (at states). I’m trying not to think about that. It’s early March when that’s going to happen. I’m just worried about tomorrow.”
When Ward left the Warriors were a solid NTL team. Now they are trying to capture a league title and do some damage at district duals. A lot changed since Ward last wrestled, with a new freshman class coming in this year, and the veterans all getting better.
“We had a good group of freshmen come up through, they had a great coach in junior high,” Ward said. “Garrett (Storch) he’s just slowly been progressing, doing everything he can to improve. Trevor Williams has just been improving every day. Our heavyweight Jaden Hulslander, he’s just been working to improve. Isaac Landis our 106 pounder, he’s been doing the same thing. Everyone has been working to improve every day.”
While the veterans have all gotten better, the Warriors have a good group of youngsters, and one of the key ones has been Hayden Ward, Timmy’s cousin.
“It’s fun,” Timmy Ward said of having his cousin on the team. “In the mat room it makes for some fun competition, being cousins. Growing up, he’s not a good loser either, neither of us are, and playing Wiffle Ball in our grandma’s backyard and all that stuff. Him and his brothers get in scuffles all the time. It’s fun to have some of your family down here working hard and grinding it out.”
NEW FACES KEY FOR WARRIORS
The Canton Warriors have been one of the best teams in the area all season.
They have also been one of the youngest teams.
Wrestlers like Bailey Ferguson, Hayden Ward and Riley Parker have all had dominant freshmen years.
“It’s a whole different atmosphere, with the lights, the music, everything is bigger, more intense,” Parker said of varsity wrestling.
“It’s nice to be out there and wrestling and go all out every match,” Hayden Ward said.
For Ward there was a little bit of expectations this year, being a Ward and the cousin of star wrestler Timmy Ward. But, the freshman has just gone out and had fun all season.
“A little bit,” Ward said of expectations. “I just go out and try my best and try and get the win.”
Ferguson and Ward each have over 20 wins on the year for Canton. Ward is 20-4, Ferguson 20-5, while Parker is 16-7 on the season.
They aren’t alone, as fellow freshman Brenen Taylor has 13 wins this year, and Austin Allen has five wins his first year.
One of the things helping the freshmen is having talented upperclassmen to learn from.
“It helps us, seeing Timmy and Garrett (Storch) wrestle in practices and try their hardest,” Parker said.
“It helps a lot to look up to them and try and do what they do.”
Having so many talented freshmen at the same time, the group has wrestled together for years.
“We all know each other, we all cheer for each other, it just makes it fun,” Ward said.
While Ferguson is at a lower weight, Ward and Parker are near each other in weight and have wrestled together for years.
“We have been partners in practice all the way since kindergarten all the way up through,” Ward said. “It’s nice to have someone who is one of the best in the area to show you what it’s like to wrestle better kids.”
One advantage that these freshmen have is they have wrestled a lot of matches before they ever got to high school.
“Every year we have been going down to Virginia Beach and we wrestle a lot of kids down there and it makes us more comfortable on the mats here,” Ward said.
And, that experience pays big dividends now.
“It helps you, you just know what to do, when to do it, just let it hang out and you don’t have to think, you just go,” Parker said. “You are just used to it by now, so you just go out there and have fun.”
ON TAP THIS WEEK
Canton will travel to Athens today for a key NTL showdown.
One matchup possible could be Athens state medalist Gavin Bradley taking on Canton’s outstanding freshman Bailey Ferguson at 113 pounds. Both wrestlers are 20-match winners this year. The other possibility could be a battle of freshmen with Ferguson meeting 10-match winner Jacob Courtney of Athens, the younger brother of Athens grad, and two-time state champion Brian Courtney.
At 285 Athens’ Keegan Braund is 17-6 on the year, and he could face either Jaden Hulslander of Canton, or the Warriors could have Trevor Williams, who is 17-4 on the year, at the weight.
If Williams is at 220 he could meet Ben Pernaselli, who has 12 wins this year.
Kyler Setzer, who is 16-5 on the year, could face Isaac Landis of Canton, who is 16-8 on the year, at 106.
On Saturday Wyalusing and Towanda will renew their rivalry. Towanda also hosts Waverly in a matchup on Wednesday, while Wyalusing hosts Troy tonight.
JH KNIGHTS UNBEATEN
The Towanda junior high wrestling team is undefeated so far this season.
In a 62-16 win over Athens Lillie Maynard, Hayden Space, Rylee Sluyter, Chase Geurin, Riley Vanderpool, Mason Higley, Quinton Woodburn, Jace Gunther, Aiden Miller, Zach Parker, Tim Parker and Jared Gunther all won for the Knights.
Towanda won 75-10 over Troy.
Hayden Space, Rylee Sluyter, Caden Dalamater, Riley Vanderpool, Mason Higley, Dillon Gausgher, Quinton Woodburn, Jace Gunther, Zach Parker, Aiden Miller, Tim Parker, Gunner Leighton and Jared Gunther all scored wins.
LOCALS IN COLLEGE
Wyalusing grad won a 4-1 match against Jack Jessen of Northwestern for the Penn State wrestling team in a victory on Sunday.
Edsell is 8-3 on the year for Penn State, including a 2-0 mark in dual meet matches.
Athens grad Brian Courtney went 1-1, as Virginia took 2nd at the Virginia Duals.
Courtney had a 12-4 win in a match against Old Dominion and lost in a match against Rutgers 10-5.
Courtney is 11-7 on the year and 3-1 in dual meets. Courtney has four pins this year.
Athens grad AJ Burkhart is 6-7 on the year for Lehigh wrestling, while Sullivan County grad Dylan Ammerman is 2-3 on the year, with a pair of falls.
A trio of Athens grads are having success for RIT wrestling.
Kaidon winters is 21-3 on the year as a junior, while sophomore Chris Horton is 14-5 on the year and freshman Nate Bradley is 9-6 on the year. Tioga grad Austin Lamb is 15-7 on the season.
Two other Athens grads, brothers Brock and Roger Horton, wrestle at Wilkes. Brock is 6-5 on the year and Roger is 12-8 on the season.
IN THE RANKINGS
Troy senior Sheldon Seymour is ranked 17th nationally at 120 pounds. He is the only Pennsylvania wrestler, in any class, ranked nationally at that weight.
Another District 4 wrestler, Gaige Garcia of Southern Columbia, is ranked second nationally at 195 pounds.
Selinsgrove’s Nate Schon is ranked 16th in the nation at 220.
In college Athens grad Winters is ranked third nationally for RIT at 157 pounds.
At the Division I level, former Pennsylvania state champion Spencer Lee is ranked No. 1 at 125.
Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young is third at 133, one spot behind former Pennsylvania state champion Austin DeSanto of Iowa. Chas Tucker of Cornell is 17-0 and ranked fourth.
Penn State’s Nick Lee is ranked second at 141 pounds. Former Penn State standout Max Murin is ranked seventh for Iowa at the weight.
Former Pennsylvania star Sammy Sasso is sixth nationally for Ohio State at 149.
Penn State’s Brady Berge is ranked fourth at 157 pounds.
Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph is ranked first in the nation at 165.
The Nittany Lions’ Mark Hall is ranked first at 174 with a perfect record this year. Cornell’s Brandon Womack is ranked 18th at the weight.
Binghamton’s Lou DePrez is ranked sixth nationally at 184 pounds. Bloomsburg’s Trevor Allard is ranked 15th.
Cornell’s Ben Darmstadt is ranked sixth at 197 pounds this year.
Penn State’s Anthony Cassar is ranked first at heavyweight, however an injury will sideline him for the rest of the season and true freshman Seth Nevills has taken his spot in the lineup.