Athletes who wrestle and play baseball are not at all common, but Boyertown's J.T. Cooley has been successfully competing in both sports for a long time. Now, as his baseball career is possibly coming to an end, he is ready to advance to a different level as a wrestler.
Cooley will be heading to Lehigh University to wrestle and major in engineering in the fall and will continue to work hard in hopes of cracking the Mountain Hawks' tough NCAA Division I lineup as soon as possible.
"I've always been a baseball player, always been a wrestler," Cooley said following Boyertown's opening-round game in the Berks County Legion League playoffs Wednesday night at Bear Stadium. "I've been the only one from Boyertown. This is probably my last season playing baseball. I can't pass it up. I love playing for Boyertown."
Cooley also considered the Air Force Academy, Franklin & Marshall and Brown. But he made an early commitment to Lehigh, where he already knows some of the wrestlers who will be on next year's team.
"I think it provides my best opportunity," he said. "It's close to home. Really, the education was a big part of it. The campus is pretty cool.
"Luke Resnick (Owen J. Roberts) is going there. Jordan Wood (2016 Boyertown graduate and winner of two PIAA silver and one gold medal) is my best friend. We've spent our lifetime together, so that's pretty cool. He was kind of nudging me to come."
Cooley went 73-36 in his wrestling career for the Bears. That included a 32-19 mark, a Pioneer Athletic Conference individual championship at 138 pounds and a state appearance during the 2015-16 season, when he was a key member of the PIAA Class 3A team runner-up squad. He also won medals at the prestigious Escape the Rock and King of the Mountain tournaments.
As a senior, his season ended due to an injury after just two matches. But he was ready to go for the Legion baseball season, where he hit .382 in 13 Berks regular season games.
He was going to split time between Lehigh and Boyertown for as long as the Legion season lasted.
"I'm moving in tomorrow, probably go to a practice," he said Wednesday. "I'll come back here for the rest. I don't want baseball to end yet. That's for sure."
Lehigh graduated nine members of the team that finished 12th in the NCAA Championships last season.
"I'm on the team," said Cooley, the son of John and Rose Cooley. "I'd really love to make the lineup, maybe not my first or second year. I've got to keep working."