Hayden Copass is highly sought-after at this point in his high school wrestling career.
Just how intrigued are Division I colleges in gaining approval from the Georgetown-Ridge Farm junior?
Look at the case of the University of Illinois coaching staff for an example.
“We had previously set it up for an actual home visit, but our schedules kind of didn’t work out,” Copass said. “And then they wanted to do it anyway. So they showed up at the fair.”
That’d be the Georgetown Fair.
While Copass was on break from his duties working at an ice cream trailer.
“We just sat down at the table, did a little home visit,” Copass said with a laugh.
Illinois is one of several high-level institutions attempting to earn a verbal commitment from Copass, who is readying for his third year grappling with the Westville/Georgetown-Ridge Farm cooperative.
Wisconsin, Iowa State, Indiana and North Carolina also are in the mix and have sent representatives to East Central Illinois to chat with the heavyweight.
“It’s very hectic, but I’m so grateful for it,” Copass said. “I’m talking to coaches all the time, 24-7. It’s different, I can say that.”
Copass has drawn outsiders’ eyes through his results thus far in IHSA competition and beyond.
He’s coming off a Class 2A 285-pound state runner-up effort earlier this year, losing only to three-time state champion Luke Luffman, now an Illini, the entire season.
“One of my biggest things is maturing wrestling-wise,” Copass said. “Working with Luffman, that definitely helped mature me.”
Copass’ offseason following that second-place showing has been strong as well.
He first went unbeaten in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at the 16U National Duals in Spokane, Wash.
Copass then trekked to Fargo, N.D., for the Cadet National Championships. He nearly was perfect in the 285 freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions, winning the former and taking second in the latter.
Falling short in Greco-Roman was especially tough for Copass because he’d also previously won his weight class in the 16U Folkstyle Nationals, so victories in Copass’ two Cadet national brackets would’ve secured a triple crown.
Just two 16U athletes were awarded a triple crown last year.
“It was pretty crazy,” Copass said. “I didn’t realize that I was even in the running until my dad told me that I was the only person in the whole entire country still left (who could) accomplish it. Then, to lose in the finals of my last match, it was heartbreaking.”
Copass has moved on, though, as he’s gearing up for the Super 32 Challenge, held in North Carolina next month.
“It’s probably one of the toughest tournaments in the nation, folkstyle-wise,” Copass said. “I’ve never been to it, but this is my first year and I plan on winning it.”
After the Super 32 concludes, Copass will be in full-on IHSA mode. His high school slate is a bit different this year than it was as a ninth- and 10th-grader, simply because Copass decided not to go out for Georgetown-Ridge Farm football as a junior.
“I originally thought about it last year,” Copass said. “I totally believe that I’m going to regret it in the long run. But I’m just ... doing what I feel like is best for me and my college interests.”
Something else changing for Copass in his 2019-2020 campaign will be the foes he faces come postseason time.
That’s because the Westville/Georgetown-Ridge Farm co-op is moving down from Class 2A to 1A.
Copass sees this as a challenge, offering the opinion 1A heavyweight will be tougher than 2A this season because of the number of returning state medalists.
But he still desires to go undefeated and top the field, as he was close to doing last year.
Something else Copass wouldn’t mind experiencing is an influx of Buffaloes on the co-op’s roster.
Copass was the only Georgetown-Ridge Farm kid suiting up in a Westville singlet each of the previous two seasons.
“I think we have a few incoming freshmen (who are interested),” Copass said. “It’d be great. It sucks being the lone Buffalo, but I’m friends with most of the guys at Westville.”