What s That Counter
The wrestling world knew long ago that Cary Kolat had something special within him. And, now wrestling fans across the country are preparing to watch this 138-pound sensation from Pennsylvania wrestle in the Olympics. Kolat is one of America's most experienced international wrestlers who has battled on the world stage to second and third place finishes at the World Championships. This year, Kolat expects to climb to the highest step on the awards podium in Sydney. However, the expectations for American fans of freestyle wrestling are increasingly daunting. The United States Olympian has won this weight every year since 1984. The wrestling legends that have struck gold at this weight have been Randy Lewis (1984), John Smith (1988, and 92), and Tom Brands (1996). Kolat, undoubtedly, sees himself joining this impressive group. His parents saw it in him at a much earlier stage in his life, then the rest of the wrestling world. Kolat credits his father for getting him started in wrestling at age five. By age eight Kolat was ready to tell people that he wanted to be the best. At that age, Kolat's father told him, "Don't say it, unless you're going to do the work to achieve it." Imagine an eight year old, taking that lesson in deeply and completely. Kolat says at that point in his life he threw himself totally into being the absolute best in wrestling. Along the way, he wrestled in the prestigious Midlands tournament, a competition filled with nation's best collegiate and international wrestlers, as a sophomore in high school and placed. Even more impressive, he became a 4-time state champion, undefeated in high school, in the wrestling-rich state of Pennsylvania. The first wrestler ever to achieve this feat in PA. Kolat wrestled for Penn State before transferring to Lock Haven, where he became a 2-time National Champion. What separates Kolat from other wrestling sensations is that he may well be on his way to placing his mark on wrestling technique in much the way that John Smith changed the sport with the low-single. Wrestling fans were always fascinated by Smith's ability to shoot low with cat-like quickness. But watching Kolat wrestle people are more often than not stunned than fascinated. The Kolat brand of countering shots may someday carry the label "do not try this at home". The uninitiated wrestling spectator will wince and turn-away; even the long-time coach will cringe when it happens. Kolat has an unbelievable ability to counter a single-leg shot that would make a slinky proud. All the while, the fans at the tournament shake their heads in disbelief, as if to say, "How can he do that?" Kolat claims that he hasn't been doing it that long, maybe four years or so. Additionally, he can't recall anyone teaching him how to hit the counter, and he swears he never even feels it. But, one has to wonder. In virtually every match that Kolat wrestles you'll see him baiting his opponent to attack his right leg, sometimes his stance seemingly offers the leg. As soon as his opponent shoots for that head inside single, Kolat responds with his brand of counter wrestling. His sprawl, isn't a sprawl in the traditional sense, and he definitely doesn't throw in the age-old counter that so many coaches would be calling for---WHIZZER! Instead Kolat goes for his signature move that can best be described as re-ankling. While Kolat sprawls from his opponent's shot, instead of squaring up and dropping his hips back to the mat he reaches to the far ankle of the shooter. Laying high across the neck of the shooter. He then begins the contortions that make you wonder if a potentially dangerous call is up-coming. Kolat elevates the opponent's opposite ankle while twisting and limp-legging his knee to the mat. Through an amazing sequence of wrestling, that often looks like Kolat's kneecap has forgotten which way it should be facing, Cary will usually turn his opponent's shot into his takedown. It is a sight to see; Kolat's legs are extremely powerful, and yet his knee joints are very flexible. Whenever, Kolat is shot on, his opponents know what is coming but the key to stopping this unbelievable counter has been elusive. Kolat gave up only one point in five matches at Nationals this year. It remains to be seen whether Cary Kolat's re-ankle counter will revolutionize counter wrestling, in much the way the low-single changed offensive shooting. However, there is little doubt that Kolat owes much of his success to this mystical counter. Through the training camp at the Olympic Training Center, in Colorado Springs Cary Kolat has been working exceedingly hard. He says he's not spending much time thinking about Australia, instead he comes into the practice room everyday to push himself to the point of exhaustion----to keep improving, to avoid any let up. Kolat surely places more pressure on himself than even the average wrestling fan does. He says, "I don't intend to be the guy that people say he should've been, he could've been." His voice trails off but you know what he's thinking. A gold medal in Sydney will help satisfy the dreams that an eight year old boy had many years ago, when his father taught him the valuable lesson of, "don't say it unless you intend to do the work to achieve it."