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Strouse is TN Wrestler of the Year

Bronson Strouse would have let his nerves get the best of him in the past.

He likely would have let the result consume him.

And that was before the Tamaqua senior even stepped on the mat.

“I stopped worrying about the outcome of the match,” said Strouse. “It would freak me out pretty much, and I would get exhausted before the match even started.

“But this year, I knew it was my last chance, so I just didn’t let that bother me anymore. I just went out there and wrestled.”

Strouse entered his senior season with an already impressive resume. He was a two-time state qualifier, and the reigning district champion at 285 pounds.

But the mental strain was often a heavy burden for the heavyweight, who had compiled a 1-4 record in his two previous trips to Hershey.

“I think, no matter what book you read on motivating student athletes to be successful or to be successful yourself, it comes down to the majority of it being mental,” said Blue Raiders’ head coach Jim McCabe. “We’ve heard that time-and-time again. But the hardest part about getting over that hurdle is for an athlete to actually, mindfully take control of the mental aspect of the sport.

“You can say it; you can explain it. But nothing will change until the athlete themselves make the change to mentally prepare differently. And I think that was the biggest thing with Bronson this year compared to the last two years that I coached him, is that he was more mentally ready to go out and do what needed to be done, and not worry about if he won or lost.”

Strouse broke through on the biggest stage this season. After capturing his second straight district crown and first regional title, he picked up his first state medal with a sixth-place finish at 285 pounds at the PIAA Championships.

His accomplishments on the mat this season were unmatched, helping Strouse pin down the Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Wrestler of the Year award.

Strouse was on the wrong end of close losses last season. He fell 3-1 in overtime to Boiling Springs’ Damon James in the second round of consolations at 285 pounds, a defeat that ended his state tournament on the second day.

He flipped the script in those situations this year in Hershey. After decking Tussey Mountain’s Matt Watkins in 0:28 to move into the quarters, the senior edged Northeast Bradford’s Dawson Brown 3-2 in the ultimate tiebreaker period of overtime to reach the semis.

“The key to success is focusing on the process, and not worrying about the outcome,” said McCabe. “When you practice and you do everything that’s right - in the room, out of the room - and you step on the mat and shake hands, the first thing you’re thinking about is, ‘I’m going to take him down.’ You’re not thinking, ‘I hope I win.’

“If you think about that outcome, and you hope to be successful, it will come and go as it pleases. But when you take total control of the mental aspect of the sport, then you become more successful, and you’ll actually have more fun doing it.”

With his sixth-place finish at 285 pounds, Strouse became the first Tamaqua wrestler to earn a state medal wrestling in the heavyweight division.

Strouse, who also won his second Schuylkill League title this season, hit his stride down the stretch. After a 3-2 setback against Jim Thorpe’s Derek Hunter on Feb. 5 - his second loss of the season to the Olympian junior - Strouse won 11 straight matches.

“He was totally under control of his emotions,” McCabe said of Strouse. “He was not happy that he lost. But he had the mindset that, ‘It’s not going to happen again.’

“I think it’s losses that make a person better - when they learn from the loss - not wins. You have to get over a hurdle first before you have that breakthrough. It’s not about that win, it’s the loss that gets you to that win, or that place at states that’s important.”

Strouse’s run to PIAA gold ended against Brookville’s Colby Whitehill in the state semifinals. Whitehill went on to capture his second straight state title.

Strouse finished his career with 143 wins - one shy of the school record held by Tanner McHugh.

Although Strouse was disappointed that his career ended with two more losses in the consolation round, it didn’t diminish what was the best season of an already remarkable career.

“I felt like I wrestled my best at states,” said Strouse. “I wish I won the last two matches, but I had no regrets.”