Collin Wickramaratna’s coach says the Cherokee senior has a “funky” wrestling style and often finds himself in the middle of “weird scrambles.”
Wickramaratna isn’t so sure about that.
“I only get funky when they start ‘funking’ me,” Wickramaratna said. “He probably thinks I’m funky because I’m like Gumby sometimes. That’s probably what he means.”
There’s one thing on which Wickramaratna, Cherokee coach Mike Booth and just about everybody else around the sport in South Jersey agrees: The Chiefs’ lightweight is one of the best wrestlers never to win a district title.
That’s the odd thing about Wickramaratna, not his flexibility, willingness to open up, or knack for making the most of those crowd-pleasing sequences when both wrestlers cut loose inhibitions and start rolling around the mat.
He has 120 career wins, so he’s in a long-shot position to challenge Cherokee’s all-time record of 147. He has 68 career pins, so he’s on the verge of breaking the Chiefs’ all-time mark of 71.
He has even made his way to the podium in the state tournament, finishing seventh at 113 pounds last season after a 3-2 loss to Highland senior Seth Henry in the quarterfinals.
“I keep watching [the video of] that quarterfinal, it lights me up,” Wickramaratna said. “I’m ready to get back there and redeem myself.”
Wickramaratna has the same mindset when it comes to districts and regions. He has won close to 20 bouts at those intense levels of competition over the course of his first three seasons, but he’s also lost six times: thrice in the district finals and thrice in the region finals.
He’s been soaked in silver, with six second-place ribbons.
“I know it motivates him,” said Booth, a former state champion at Camden Catholic. “We have a board in our [wrestling] room listing all the district and region winners at Cherokee.
“He wants his name on that board. He wants to win a district title. He wants to win a region title. He wants to win a state title.”
Wickramaratna has lost to terrific wrestlers. In 2015 and 2017, he lost in the district finals and region finals to Seneca’s Joe Manchio, a future state champion.
In 2016, Wickramaratna lost in the district and region finals to Camden Catholic’s Lucas Revano, a future fifth-place finisher in the state.
“I view it as a reminder that I might be good but I still don’t have a big major title,” Wickramaratna said. “The only title I have is 100 wins.”
— Philip Anastasia (@PhilAnastasia) January 4, 2018
Wickramaratna said he sometimes uses his past frustrations as motivation, especially when wrestling against a foe with a district title on his resume.
“A couple weeks ago were in this quad [meet] and a kid was a district champion and I knew I was better and I was very ticked off,” Wickramaratna said. “I was ready to go out there and stick him.”
Booth said Wickramaratna has raised his game as a senior, wrestling with increased confidence and determination.
Wickramaratna is 14-0 this season, with nine pins. He has led the way in a strong start for Cherokee, which is 6-2 with victories over fellow South Jersey Group 5 powers Kingsway and Eastern.
— Philip Anastasia (@PhilAnastasia) January 3, 2018
“This year I’ve changed and opened the door,” said Wickramaratna, who scored a 12-3 victory over Eastern’s Joe DelPalazzo in Cherokee’s 29-22 triumph on Tuesday night. “This summer, I felt like I got really better.
“It’s senior year, last ride, not going to hold back.”
On paper at this early stage of the season, Wickramaratna rates as the favorite at 126 pounds in District 25 and Region 7. Manchio is projected to compete at 120 pounds and Revano likely will go at 132.
Wickramaratna, who has hopes to wrestle in college, knows there’s a lot of work to be done before he can reach the top step of the podium at districts and region, and make his last best run at states.
But he’s convinced this is the year he trades silver for gold.
“I’m tired of finishing second,” Wickramaratna said “I’m not going to go back to second. This year is different.”