Following Saturday, Feb. 16, it appeared that Cam Olson’s high school wrestling career was over. While the Elizabethtown Area High School senior finished fifth in the 126-pound weight class at District 3’s Section II tournament, he missed out on placing in the top four, which would’ve qualified him for the full District 3 Championships.
Then, out of the blue, Olson got a phone call. It was from Palmyra junior Nick Carroll, who had beaten him in an 8-2 decision en route to a fourth-place finish at sectionals.
However, Carroll ended up suffering an injury to his shoulder late in his third-place bout loss to Lampeter-Strasburg sophomore Arik Harnish. An MRI afterward revealed it was a sternoclavicular dislocation, a fairly serious injury for wrestlers. Thankfully for Carroll, no surgery was needed, but he would not be medically cleared to compete at districts.
So who would take the vacant spot at districts? Olson, who had the news delivered to him via Carroll on the night of Tuesday, Feb. 19, later getting official word from head coach Mike Sernoffsky and the District 3 committee the next day.
“He told me I was wrestling and wished me luck,” Olson said. “(My first thought was) I have to lose a lot of weight in little time. Then I just went to practice like normal. It was my last run, so I wanted to wrestle hard and not look back.”
Olson opened his district run on Friday, Feb. 22, at Hersheypark Arena, facing Garden Spot freshman Garrett Gehr, who had previously pinned him twice this year: once during a regular season match and again at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships. Unfortunately for Olson, the third time wasn’t the charm, as Gehr got another pinfall in the second period, later going on to finish sixth overall in the 120.
His day wasn’t done though; Olson then took on York Suburban freshman Bryson Neidigh in the consolation bracket, winning handily in a 10-6 decision. His run came to an end in the second round against Harnish, who came away with a 7-0 decision victory.
“It was pretty cool overall,” Olson said. “My last match in junior high was at the Hershey arena, so it was cool that my last match in high school was there too. Full circle. I thought I could do a little bit better, but I got a win, so it was OK.”
Olson’s high school career is now officially over, barring an unlikely series of pullouts for states. He led the Bears in wins this year with a record of 29-15, as well as an 83-55 record across four years with the team. Olson credited the coaching staff of Sernoffsky and assistants Julius DiRisio and William Van Winkle for his development, along with former head coach Troy Hoffman, who was at the helm for Olson’s first three years of high school before stepping down ahead of this season to deal with health issues.
“They were probably the best coaches I’ve ever had,” he said. “I missed having Coach Troy around this year. Van Winkle helped me the most in terms of getting ready to wrestle. Julius did too, and Serno just gets your mind into it.”
It was a tough go for most of the 2018-19 campaign for Elizabethtown. The Bears finished 5-16 overall, and Olson was their lone representative at districts. But his time with the team is something he’ll treasure for the long haul. He specifically highlighted the 2016-17 season when the team went 15-3 and sent four wrestlers to districts as a standout memory but also noted that this year was something special as well.
“Best moment was probably sophomore year,” Olson said. “It didn’t really matter how we did; our team was good. This year was the hardest part because it was a young team, but we ended well. It was hard (stepping up leadership-wise); we had a lot of first-year kids in the starting lineup, but we made the most of it and had fun. It’s pretty cool knowing how close we are. We have a good bond.”