- June 1, 2022
Every night about 10, Ranson Coons runs across the Fort Hamer Bridge.
Coons, a senior wrestler at Lakewood Ranch High, then sprints up a hill near the bridge, turns around and goes back to the start, repeating his cycle. He does this until 11 p.m., when he heads home to sleep. He cannot afford to miss a day because when everything is on the line, he will be ready.
The workout is by Coons' design, part of his plan to walk away from the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 3A State Championship meet in March with a gold medal hanging from his neck. Coons was relatively close last year, finishing sixth in the 170-pound division despite not being able to finish his last two matches because of an ankle injury. Other than the injury, Coons said he was happy with how he performed.
His technique is solid and he is mentally prepared to face any opponent. The one area where Coons felt he was behind, he said, was cardio. So now he runs across the Fort Hamer Bridge.
On a list of athletes ranked by determination, Coons would be near the top. He began wrestling when he was 5 because his family thought it would keep him active. He liked it then, but he also made time for other sports like football and basketball. Eventually, he put wrestling aside entirely. As a freshman in high school, Coons made the football team, but he came to dislike the experience and left the team. Then he failed to make the basketball team.
Coons said not participating in a sport was never an option. He said it would have led him to play more video games than he already does and would create lazy habits. So he turned back to his first sport — wrestling. This time around, the experience on the mat was different. He had enjoyed it before, he said, but now he saw the sport as something important. He saw what he could be if he applied himself. Coons later would rejoin the football team for his sophomore and junior seasons, but did not play as a senior, choosing instead to keep preparing for wrestling.
"I choose my own destiny in this sport," Coons said. "How far I go, how good I get, that's all up to me. That's what I love about it."
Coons is seeing the results. Last season, he became the first Mustangs wrestler to record 100 pins in his career. He's steadily improved and believes this year will be his best season yet.
Part of the difference came in Coons' attitude. When he was young, he said, he would get so upset after each loss that he would cry. Coons said he hated to lose, and still does. Since picking it back up, Coons has come to see the value of learning from losses. Instead of wallowing in defeat, he moves forward, taking the experience and bringing it into his next match.
It's exactly what Coons did at last year's state tournament in the "blood round," or the consolation semifinals. At state tournaments, winning a blood round match is the difference between placing in the top-eight, which means getting a medal, and going home with nothing. Coons made it to the blood round as a freshman and sophomore and lost both times. Last season, Coons (42-9) had previously lost an 8-3 decision to South Dade senior Josh Swan, the eventual state champion, so he couldn't afford another defeat. He faced Chiles High's Hunter Brown, ranked No. 3 in the state, in the blood round. He won by fall in 3:38.
That desire to win keeps him going even when he doesn't want to work. Practice can be a tedious time for Coons if he's not focused, he said, since most of the techniques his teammates are learning are already known to him. Coons said maintaining engagement and working through every drill has to be a priority. So far — wrestling at 195-pound level — Coons has had no problems. He went 5-0 at the 2021 Lemon Bay Duals, held Dec. 4 at Lemon Bay High. The Mustangs finished second out of 13 schools as a team. It was the team's first event of the season.
Coons said he hopes to continue his wrestling career in college. He took two trips to college clinics this offseason, one with the Mustangs to Ohio State and one on his own to Iowa. Coons said another strong season will get him where he wants to be.
"Wrestling is a humbling sport," Coons said. "Seeing how good those (college) wrestlers are was inspiring because there was always someone better than you. I'm hoping I can be there myself someday."