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All-Metro girls wrestler of the year: Lafayette's Cole continues on dominant path to top

All-Metro girls wrestler of the year: Lafayette's Cole continues on dominant path to top

From the 2020 All-Metro girls wrestling series
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Eventually, in the not too distant future, Faith Cole will run out of colors.

The Lafayette High sophomore wrestler likes to celebrate every landmark win with a change of hair tint.

“You can call that one of my hobbies,” the two-time state champion said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

Changing the hue of her hair, along with dominating matches at an alarming rate, is what makes Cole tick.

She switched to what she calls her current “greyish-blonde” look a month ago after winning the state championship in the 110-pound division at the Missouri state meet in Columbia.

The year before, when she captured the 103-pound crown, Cole went with a red/black style.

“I can’t count how many times she’s changed her hair,” explained her mother, Sara. "It makes her happy, so we just let her do it whenever she wants.”

Cole has gone with purple and even red streaks after regular-season tournament titles.

She celebrated the biggest win of her career — a first-place finish last summer in the prestigious United States Marine Corps Cadet Under-16 championships at Fargo, North Dakota — by cutting her hair and adding pink highlights.

“I can’t keep up with it,” said her dad, Jesse, a former state wrestling qualifier at Oakville High.

The 15-year-old Cole has been dominant in the short history of girls wrestling on the high school level in Missouri. She has compiled an eye-popping 55-0 mark over the past two seasons.

But it's not her unbeaten streak that stands out. It is the dominant way she has racked up win after win. An astounding 53 of her victories have come by either pin or technical fall (a triumph of 15 or more points). No one has even come close to beating her. Cole’s tightest contest this past season came in the championship match at Mizzou Arena, where she overpowered Lilly Brower of Excelsior Springs by a decisive 11-2 count.

Cole is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro girls wrestler of the year.

“There’s that internal drive that she has that very few others have,” Lafayette coach Berenice Blanco said. “Even though she wins, and usually easy, she’s not always satisfied with that. She wants to get better. I can’t count the number of times she’s won a tournament and she’ll come back to me not happy because she didn’t meet the high standards she’s set for herself. That’s what makes her keep getting better and better.”

Cole is well-known on the national level, as well. Her performance in Fargo last summer turned heads. After winning the Under-16 title, she went on to finish second in the Junior division, which included some of the top Under-19 wrestlers in the country. Cole fell to Emily Shilson of Maple Grove, Minnesota, in the title match. Shilson, who is four years older than Cole, just completed her freshman season at Augsburg University by winning the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association national title at 109 pounds.

That performance earned Cole a trip to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Cole worked out for a week with some the nation’s best female wrestlers and under the tutelage of top-level coaches.

The national exposure gave Cole the confidence needed to step her game up to another level. Now, she harbors Olympic dreams and even has the words "2024" Olympics, etched into the mirror in her bedroom.

“That’s my goal,” she said.

Cole is not that far off.

“She has the mindset and talent to go a long way in this sport,” said Blanco, who fashioned a successful wrestling career at Missouri Baptist University.

Cole deflects a good majority of the credit for her rise to her father. She also honed her talents at the Purler Wrestling Camp under the direction of Nick Purler, a former NCAA All-American at Oklahoma State University. Lafayette boys coach Joe Wier also has contributed mightily to her growth.

She competed in her first match at age 8 and immediately fell in love with the sport. Cole and her family moved three different times, but she always used wrestling to fit into her new environs.

Cole likes to joke with her father about the two gold medals she owns on the high school level. Jesse qualified for state at Oakville but won just one match.

“I’ll never let him forget about it,” Faith said.

Cole, who sports a 3.6 grade point averages, takes her wrestling very seriously. The family has a group of wrestling mats in the basement of their Pacific home. She spends more time there than in her own bedroom, Sara joked.

“I hear everyone else taking about, 'Oh no, we have to go to practice now,’ ” Faith said. “But I can’t wait. I look forward to it. Every single time.”

Cole’s older sister, Emma, also is an accomplished wrestler. A senior at Lafayette, she finished second in the state at 152 and will continue her career at Lindenwood University.

Over the past 12 months, Faith’s stock has skyrocketed. The success at Fargo has put her name high on the list of college coaches throughout the nation.

Jesse said the key to Faith’s quick rise comes in her increased level of confidence.

“Before, she wasn’t totally sure about how good she was,” Jesse said. “Now, she goes out there thinking she’s going to win. On the biggest stages, she’s been shining the brightest.”

Cole is hoping to compete in national tournaments in Las Vegas and Dallas over the next few months to tune up for a return trip to Fargo later in the summer.

“I’m feeling like I’m the most blessed person I know,” Faith said. “Everybody, a whole number of family, friends and coaches, have helped me get this far. And I’m going to keep working hard so I don’t let them — or myself — down.”

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