Back from injury, Kyle Cochran is Maryland wrestling’s “most consistent guy in the room”

Maryland 165-pounder Kyle Cochran jockeys for position with Indiana's Dillon Hoey in an eventual 12-0 major decision on Jan. 26, 2020. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

As the final seconds ticked off in the 165-pound bout in Maryland wrestling’s dual Sunday, Kyle Cochran wasn’t letting Indiana’s Dillon Hoey go anywhere on the mat.

Cochran had racked up about five minutes and 30 seconds of riding time on his way to a convincing 12-0 major decision victory. It was his second-straight major decision victory, putting the finishing touches on his 2-0 weekend.

After redshirting last season due to a wrist injury, Cochran has now won six of his last eight dual bouts and has been one of the most consistent wrestlers for the Terps this season. The journey to get to this point, though, has been anything but straightforward.

“[The injury] was a big wake-up call because I was away from the sport for a whole year, but I knew I would be able to get back in the swing of things,” Cochran said.

[Read more: Maryland wrestling didn’t end its four-year Big Ten losing streak, but it showed progress]

That time off affected him early on as he went 2-3 in his first five duals of the season. Things quickly changed at the Virginia Duals with Maryland in desperate need of a momentum swing.

While the Terps started hot, defeating Fresno State on Jan. 10, Maryland’s success quickly devolved into a string of losses, dropping three straight duals in six hours the next day.

But amid the trio of losses, Cochran’s hand was continually raised. In what became a physically draining day and weekend of wrestling, he was a bright spot, going a perfect 4-0 as the Terps finished sixth out of eight teams.

“It felt very good,” Cochran said. “I don’t like to think about the past, but I felt like I was back to my old ways.”

[Read more: With chance to end Big Ten woes, Maryland wrestling falls just short vs. Indiana, 19-16]

Those old ways were at Paramus High School in Paramus, New Jersey, where he was a 2016 New Jersey State Champion and a runner-up in 2017, compiling a 143-30 career record.

Coach Alex Clemsen first noticed Cochran at the Super 32 Challenge, among the more prestigious annual high school wrestling tournaments in the country.

Clemsen saw Cochran take home a championship in 2016, and it was then that Cochran’s potential became evident. Once Clemsen arrived in College Park for his first season at the helm of Maryland, he was brutally honest with Cochran about his place in the program.

“The first time we met, I just said, ‘You’re one of the more talented kids in the room and on paper, you’re maybe the biggest recruit in the room,’” Clemsen said. “I said, ‘That kid hasn’t shown up yet. I don’t know if he’s still in Jersey or if he’s lost on campus somewhere, but I need that guy to walk through my doors and get to work.’”

After getting back to full health, Cochran put in work in the practice room, trying to make up for that year he lost.

So far, Clemsen has been impressed with the progress Cochran’s been making. And among the wrestlers currently in the program, Cochran has become one of the standouts, especially in practice.

“He’s been the most consistent guy in the room with his preparation,” Clemsen said. “He’s done the best job of being consistent and strategic and doing what we’re asking or what we’re preaching.”

Along with that, Clemsen said Cochran has been able to step up and answer challenges that have been thrown at him.

The wrestler who was once wandering around the campus has been found and has dominated on the mat the past few weeks. The question now is whether he can keep it up.

“[Clemsen] told me this whole year that the light bulb is going to go off at some point,” Cochran said. “… The light bulb’s not completely lit up right now, but it’s getting there. I’m twisting it, trying to get it to light up completely, and when I get there, big things are gonna come.”

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