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Deer Park wrestler Tommy Cox

Deer Park wrestler Tommy Cox Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Five, 10 or 20 years down the road, when people see the Tommy Cox trophy display at Deer Park High School, they will talk about the obvious: his state title, his 163 career wins, his incredible wrestling ability. But Cox hopes they bring up something else.

“I’d like for them to speak about how hard I pushed myself,” Cox said, “and how hard I worked to help my teammates.”

Legacy means a great deal to the senior, who defeated Kelan McKenna of New Hartford, 5-3, in the 113-pound final at the state tournament at the Times Union Center in Albany on Feb. 27.

“Tommy’s a humble kid,” coach Mike McLaughlin said, “but I think he realizes the impact he’s had on this program.”

Without a doubt, much of Cox’s legacy at Deer Park concerns his dominance on the mat. At the state meet, he used a pin, major decision and 4-0 decision to arrive at the final.

Against McKenna, Cox entered the third period leading 1-0 before earning three back points to help him secure the championship. “All the emotions were running through me then,” Cox said, in reference to his journey to the top.

He had lost in the Suffolk final in each of the past two seasons.

“For it to happen twice,” Cox said, “it was devastating.”

And so the fire was lit. All this season, Cox, who finished with a 44-1 record, pushed himself toward his goal. The North Carolina State-bound wrestler would wake up before school started, usually around 5:30 a.m., to run four miles. After school, it was hours and hours of practice. “And after all that,” McLaughlin said, “there’s a good chance that he’d go for another quick run before bed.”

This leads into the other part of Cox’s legacy that is not to be overlooked: leading by example.

On Jan. 22, Deer Park lost at Half Hollow Hills West. McLaughlin wasn’t happy with the performance, and after the team arrived back at Deer Park, he had his wrestlers run sprints.

Cox had nothing to do with the loss — a staph infection had sidelined him for two weeks. But he saw an opportunity. “As the captain,” Cox said, “I thought I should be running these sprints, too.”

Cox not only participated, he set the tone. “He was probably first in every sprint,” McLaughlin said. “That sent a message. He inspired everyone to push harder.”

That has been Cox’s aim for as long as he has worn his Deer Park singlet.

“I wanted to push the guys, to encourage them,” Cox said, “because that’s what brothers do for one another.”

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