Mont Alto, Pa. – Clay Kocsis entered his senior season as a two-time NCWA (National Collegiate Wrestling Association) All-American and was a handful of wins shy of the 100-win mark for his career with the Penn State Monto Alto wrestling program. Nevertheless, the funny thing was he wasn't even sure he wanted to come back and compete during his senior year and initially he didn't. The Gettysburg, Pa. native took off the first semester concentrating on 400-level courses required as part of his intended business degree while working a part-time job.
"Sure there have been times I wanted to quit or leave it, but wrestling has always been something I've been passionate about and the sport has always found a way to draw me back in," said Kocsis. "I truly missed the comradery and seeing the team wrestle in a couple of the early season meets sparked a fire in my belly to return."
Kocsis was able to balance his academic and work life enough that he felt comfortable to initiate a return to the Penn State Mont Alto wrestling program. He also had the realization that this was potentially his last opportunity to compete at a high level and he did not want to regret anything moving forward.
"I didn't want to look back a year or two from now and wonder what I could have done," said Kocsis. "I never achieved my main goal of becoming a National Champion during my first three years at Mont Alto and I viewed this past season as one last chance."
Kocsis made his return to the mats in January and 14-days later while competing in the Will Abele Invitational at Ursinus College he went 4-0 to push past the 100-win mark for his career with the Lions – the first at Penn State Mont Alto to achieve that milestone.
"Reaching 100 wins in college, especially at a smaller school is an impressive feat," remarked Head Coach Chris Leese. "Clay has an awesome work ethic and always put forth a 100 percent in practice and on the mat."
The wrestling team finished the regular season with a 10-10 overall record finishing second in the Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference and sent five wrestlers to the NCWA National Championship including Clay Kocsis who finished the regular season with a perfect record of 23-0. The senior, entered as the No. 2 seed in the 174-pound weight class in the championship tournament and went 4-0 reaching the finals where he squared off with No. 1 seed Josh Ferenczy from Liberty University. In a highly contested battle, Ferenczy claimed the title with a 6-2 victory, crushing Kocsis's dream of being a National Champion.
"I honestly don't have any regrets because going into that final match I thought that I overcame a ton of adversity this season whether it was recovering from different nicks and dings or having an off-match and still finding a way to come out on top," said Kocsis. "The bottom line is he was the better wrestler that day and I came up empty handed."
Kocsis did not exactly come up empty handed as his second place finish made him a two-time NCWA Championship Runner-Up. He also finished his career as a four-time NCWA National Qualifier, three-time All-American and concluded his collegiate career with a 123-11 overall record. None of those accolades are lost on him either as he plans on staying close to the sport of wrestling after graduation, transitioning into a coaching role.
"I'm really looking forward to being able to join the Gettysburg High School coaching staff as an assistant," said Kocsis. "Wrestling is such a mental and physical sport that teaches many valuable life lessons and I can't wait to help kids set and reach their goals."