After two cracks at the state tournament, Patterson Mill junior Zach Cullison thinks the third time is a charm.

The two-time state qualifier has come-up short of the big dance’s state finals, going 2-2 his freshman year at 103 pounds and placing third as a sophomore at 112, but Cullison will be bumping up a weightclass for the third straight year and attempt a title at 119.

“Growing every year, you have to get to a weight that you are comfortable and can wrestler to the best of your ability.  My plan is to win it this year,” Cullison said.  “I won the conference my freshman year, and disappointed myself in the finals sophomore year with second.  

“I think I will be able to do a lot better this year, being completely healthy, hopefully, and try to take states.”

Cullison suffered a broken finger during the post-season last year, losing only to Aberdeen’s Sheydaun Velez in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference finals and Francis Scott Key’s 112-pound state finalist Steve Smith in the state semifinals, 3-1, in his 40-2 season.

“I think first he has to get in the right weightclass, and then it is a matter of staying healthy throughout the year,” Patterson Mill coach Ryan Arist said of Cullison.  “He can’t be content and has to push himself everyday in practice.  He can’t just stay at the one level, and has to find a way to reach a new level every single day and push himself.”

Pushing himself the past two off-seasons, Cullison has trained at Kolat Training Center four to five days a week, wrestling with top Maryland talent as 119-pound Super 32 Champion Nathan Kraisser,

cullison blindfold“I have been going to Kolat for the past two summers, and it has helped me the most out of all the off-season things,” Cullison explained.  “Proper drilling, and rolling around with some of the state’s top talent helped develop me into a leader.”

Those leadership qualities are something that Arist has seen develop over the past two seasons, and has prompted the Huskies’ coach to appoint Cullison one of the team’s three captains.

“You not only see him maturing as a wrestler, but you see him maturing as a leader,” Arist said.  “Just this year, I have him in a leadership role as a captain, and he is great on and off the mat.

“He has been wrestling hard the entire off season and has been challenging himself.  I think it is just a matter of maintaining the weight down there [at 119], keeping the weight down there and adjusting to the weightclass.  Especially for those little guys, every time you jump up a weight class, it is just a different style of wrestling.  But I think he has seen that and will adjust well.”

So what is left for Cullison to do in this season: “The plan is to win it.  Win it all this year.”

For profiles on your team’s state hopefuls, email CJ Malinowski at