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Wrestling for a legacy

Cole Bohnen planted program in Aledo before graduating


Though it is over, it is not too late to reflect on the events of the 2021-22 school year. Of the many notable things that took place, one stands out as being the culmination of dedication, determination, and a lot of planning.

It is almost hard to believe it was all accomplished by just one person.

Recent Aledo High School graduate Cole Bohnen grew up in a wrestling family. His grandfather wrestled, his father Shane wrestled, and his older brother Connor wrestled. So when Cole was a freshman at Aledo, the announcement of Aledo starting a wrestling program excited him.

“When we moved to Texas it wasn’t as common,” Bohnen said in an interview. “When we moved to Aledo I had been doing football and soccer, but I had realized that those weren’t my thing. So, I preoccupied my time with jiu-jitsu, which was basically as close as you can get.”

A flier on the wall got his attention one day and he thought he had his chance.

“I thought I was going to get a solid three years of wrestling,” Bohnen recalled. “I thought it was going to be awesome, I could train, I could go to state, you know I was just super excited.”

Unfortunately, for Bohnen, the plan fell through and it seemed the wrestling program would not happen.

“We have to be really careful about how we spend our money,” Athletic Director Steve Wood said. “We have to be sure that we can support it and do all the research that goes into it, so it’s not easy just to add something that you haven’t had. You don’t just go out there and say ‘We’ll do that,’ because there’s a lot of factors that are involved in it.”

Though things seemed bleak, Bohnen was not about to let his high school dream slip away so easily. He went to the principal at the time, Dan Peterson. However, Peterson was about to retire, meaning Bohnen would have to wait until the next year when Angi Tims took over.

Tims arranged for Bohnen to speak in front of the school board and plead his case to try and get wrestling started at Aledo. The board heard him out and added the creation of a wrestling program to the budget.

“As soon as he went in front of the board he had such a compelling story and case,” Wood recalled. “He’s a really highly motivated young man, really good student, and just a leader. Once he did that and we met with the superintendent, and she met with the school board and it was a no-brainer. We were moving forward. Then you go into, ok, we need to do some research and I need to find all these costs and get the budget presented about how much we were going to spend.”

The board approved the budget the same night Bohnen gave his presentation. However, it was only one step completed. His next step was to build support.

“I probably annoyed some people,” Bohnen said. “It was the only thing I talked about in the spring of 2021. I was trying to get as many people as possible to at least verbally agree to give wrestling a try. Or just to get them excited and get more people talking about it.”

Bohnen’s tactics worked, but there was still a problem. There was not a coach. Bohnen met with Wood and figured out the logistics as well as what they needed to find in terms of a coach.

“Above wrestling knowledge,” Wood spoke about his coaching expectations. “We want to hire somebody that’s going to come in here and care for our kids and make our kids feel worthy, whether they are the star or a backup. The rest of it will take care of itself,”

Wood hired Austin Stockon, a former Aledo football player who had been the assistant wrestling coach at Weatherford at the time. Not long after Stockon got the job, Texas Elite Wrestling Club put on a camp at the Aledo Community Center while their facility halfway between Aledo and Azle was being built.

“I had heard his name from Coach [Wood] whenever he was starting the program,” Stockon recalled meeting Bohnen. “I actually went and watched the video of the school board meeting just to see him for myself.”

Stockon and Bohnen skipped the formalities and got right down to business.

“He walked up to me and introduced himself,” Bohnen remembered. “Then immediately he was talking to me about his vision for the program, what he wanted to do for practice this year, he started talking to me about moves and what was going on in the wrestling world at the time.”

Stockon was impressed with Bohnen from the start.

“I knew from there that he was super well-driven,” Stockon exclaimed. “He had already stood out. Just in how he carried himself, work ethic, all of it.”

The two got to work, and in December, with a full squad of wrestlers, the Aledo wrestling team took to the mats at Colleyville Heritage for what Stockon considers the turning point of the season.

“That was a tough tournament,” Stockon recalled. “Conditions were awful because the air-conditioning had failed. Cole ended up losing his third match there and I just told him that it wasn’t over and we had to battle back. He was able to battle back and place third in the tournament. Then, with the girls, Texas [Ray] placed third. That was the vindication that we were building something good.”

Bohnen and Wood both remember senior night as the vindication for what had been started, and what was yet to come.

“The biggest time that it hit me,” Bohnen reminisced. “The final time that I realized this was something that I had built and I helped create was at Senior Night. I was in the zone, I was intent on doing something cool to end the season. And we all just showed out.”

“It was very moving for me,” Wood recalled the same bout. “It was very exciting. Most of our coaches were there. Our kids in the stands were excited. It was a neat experience. I would advise anybody to come up here and watch our meet if we host one next year, because I think they’ll get their money’s worth.”

Bohnen wrestled all the way to the regional tournament in El Paso before his season came to an end. However, with Ansel Din-Mbuh’s qualification to the state tournament in Cypress, Bohnen got to see his hard work and dedication pay off.

“I told him from the start,” Stockon recalled. “I told him if we send someone to state that he’s coming with us. Much like Bryon Wheeler, who helped Ansel train the entire way, Cole’s deal was to help the team in any way. He wanted to see something positive for the team and he deserved to be there.”

Bohnen will attend Notre Dame to study management consulting. Though he won’t be wrestling anymore, his name will forever be synonymous with Aledo wrestling - a program that exists because of him.

“He is amazing,” Bohnen’s mother Robin said. “Obviously I am biased because he is my child, but honestly the drive that he has and just to see it since he’s been at Aledo, it has been amazing. This is not it for Cole. This is Cole’s beginning.”

“I couldn’t be any more happy with where our wrestling program was the first year,” Wood said. “We’ve got a bunch of people that really love wrestling in this community. There’s a new facility built up on the border of Azle and Aledo. We have a bunch of young kids that are here. Our best is yet to come, I will say that. It will be top level. It will be as good as anybody’s. I predict that.”


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