Baylen Cooper believes this season is no-pressure time. Last season, he was filled with pressure.
The Pearl City wrestler, now a senior, was told all last season that he needed to do what his brothers did for so long — win a state title or place at the state meet.
The list is long:
>> 2014: Blake Cooper wins state championship at 160 pounds
>> 2013: Blake Cooper wins state championship at 152
>> 2012: Blake Cooper wins state championship at 145
>> 2011: Raynald Cooper wins state championship at 173 and Blake Cooper places sixth at 142
>> 2010: Raynald Cooper wins state championship at 160
>> 2009: Raynald Cooper wins state championship at 152
>> 2008: Raynald Cooper places third at 140
And it started a lot earlier than that. Their father, Ray Cooper, placed second in 1991 at 152.
So, what happened in 2015?
“It was mostly because of the expectations,” Baylen Cooper said Saturday during the Pearl City round-robin tournament. “I felt like I had to be like my brothers. I froze up (and lost two matches by pin).”
How does he feel this year? More relaxed?
“Yes, I’m more relaxed,” he said. “We’ll have to see if I can still be in the game, to see if I can focus my mind on (winning the states). The coaches have been telling me that it’s important to get points early and keep scoring on opponents’ bad position or bad habits.”
Indeed, both head coach Mike Lee and assistant Todd Los Banos said it’s imperative for him to do just that.
“He’s so damned fast,” Los Banos said. “He doesn’t need to be overpowering if he uses his techniques. He’s the type of wrestler who needs to stay steady.”
On Saturday, Cooper pinned Kalaheo’s Kody Barbadillo, Aiea’s Shaun Ildefonso and McKinley’s Denzyale Jordan Samuelu. Against Ildefonso, he took a 5-0 lead within the first 25 seconds, and the coaches had to have been happy.