Copass bringing national-champion pedigree to Buffaloes

Copass bringing national-champion pedigree to Buffaloes

GEORGETOWN — When Hayden Copass fielded a question about the status of Georgetown-Ridge Farm football's offseason workouts, the sophomore offered an entirely truthful answer.

He wasn't the right guy to respond — because he'd spent most of the summer wrestling competitively beyond his hometown.

"I actually ended up winning a national title," said Copass, referring to his success last month in the U.S. Marine Corps freestyle tournament's cadet class. "That was pretty cool."

Some adjustment must be required, then, for Copass to return to prime football shape.

Perhaps a little. But when you're a 6-foot-6 nose guard and right tackle who wins championships wrestling at 285 pounds, the comeback to football isn't quite so challenging.

"It definitely comes naturally to me, just from the size," Copass said. "I think (football and wrestling) both kind of go hand in hand with each other, definitely with the hand movements and placement."

Buffaloes coach Josh Cavanaugh and the rest of his crew will hope that's the case when G-RF opens its season Friday at Clifton Central.

Copass racked up 30 tackles as a freshman for a 3-6 Buffaloes outfit, and his stature is sure to pose trouble for some opponents — even in the typically hard-hitting Vermilion Valley Conference.

"I was always bigger up until my sixth-grade year, and everybody kind of grew and I didn't," Copass said. "Then my eighth-grade year, I got really tall and towered over everybody."

Though Copass for many years has held a size edge over most around him, he didn't get his athletic start in either football or wrestling.

Instead, he tried his hand at soccer. The sport didn't catch on with Copass because of how much bigger he was than everyone else.

He then made an important decision at age 6.

"I finished the year up and told my mom to sign me up for football, and it stuck," Copass said.

While Copass' frame is impressive, some foes may be surprised to know he's just 14 years old.

This has nothing to do with Copass moving to Illinois from another state or being pushed one grade ahead. As he describes it, "I'm pretty sure my birthday's just late."

As a result, Copass must put in countless hours of work to physically and mentally grow into his body.

"I've matured a lot (from last season). I've definitely gotten stronger and faster," Copass said. "People don't expect me to be so young. They expect a very strong guy, but I will admit I'm not the strongest."

Copass feels more confident in his ability to hold the line this year thanks to what he's done lately on the mat.

In addition to his national triumph, Copass qualified for the 2018 IHSA Class 2A state tournament at 285 pounds.

There is one key difference between his two sports of choice.

"It was difficult getting back into lifting and running more instead of just wrestling all the time," Copass said. "The typical wrestling workout is probably more drills, sprints and pull-ups all over again. Football is more running and strength."

Cavanaugh and the Buffaloes hope all the lessons Copass has soaked up during his brief prep tenure will pay dividends for a program seeking its first postseason berth since 2015.

But as integral as Copass could be to the team's uprising, he's not about to let the spotlight rest entirely on him.

"I feel like it'll definitely help that I'm kind of bigger than everybody, but it's not just me," Copass said. "We have a good line. We're definitely not picked to be very good, but I feel like we're going to come out and show up."



Aug. 24 at Clifton Central 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. PBL 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 vs. Salt Fork 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 at BHRA 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at HASAAP 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 vs. Oakwood 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Momence 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Martinsville 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 vs. Westville 7 p.m.

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports