Colton Cummings admits that he was never very confident on the wrestling mat before this season.
Sure, the Lowell freshman had won a middle school state championship, an ISWA folkstyle state title, finished fourth at the USAW Folkstyle Nationals and was ranked No. 4 in his weight class in Indiana. But Cummings still had doubts in the back of his mind.
He erased those fears at last weekend's Al Smith Invitational at Mishawaka High School. He won a 3-2 decision over Penn sophomore Drew Hildebrandt — the top-ranked 106-pounder in the state — in the 32-team tournament final to keep his high school record unblemished at 18-0.
"Beating the kid ranked No. 1 made me feel good. It makes me feel acknowledged. I wrestled hard to get where I'm at," Cummings said. "Now, I'm a bit more confident. I can be more aggressive."
Red Devils coach Bobby Howard told Cummings his match with Hildebrandt would be a gauge to determine where he stood among the state's best wrestlers. Howard said he learned that afternoon that Cummings is good on the attack and needs to be trying to score for six minutes.
That shouldn't be a problem for the kid Howard calls a "ball of energy" who could "wrestle hard for 12 minutes," if he had to.
"That Al Smith tournament let me know where we're at," Howard said. "Maybe some were wondering, but now we know. Hopefully, we can cap this season by winning a match (in the state championship)."
Howard, who has been at the helm for the Devils since 2000, says that Cummings and sophomore Drew Hughes have a chance to be two of the best wrestlers to ever set foot on a mat in the Pit by the time they graduate.
"Having that target on his back, I look at that as kind of a good thing," Howard said. "The sky is the limit."
After last weekend, Cummings has the mindset to match his coach's.
"People actually know I'm good, now," he said. "I want to win four state championships. Winning four (Al Smith tournament championships) wouldn't be bad, either."