Editor’s note: Our head coaches have been invited to submit one nominee for the MLT Athlete of the Year from their team from the past school year. The Murray Ledger & Times will open an online poll for the readers to choose one athlete from each school (Calloway High School, Murray High School and Murray State). Keep reading our series and watch for the opportunity to cast your vote.
MURRAY— He wrestled through anguish and through heartbreak and showed his true championship pedigree through it all.
Dylan Bell shined in his senior season with Calloway County’s wrestling team, earning the admiration from both his peers and three-year head coach Chris McWherter, who nominated Bell for Murray Ledger & Times Athlete of the Year.
The reasons behind the nomination for wrestling are relatively self-explanatory. Bell recorded 30 takedowns, 24 near falls, 14 pins, 20 wins and accounted for 117 team points in his senior season.
He was also one of the only athletes to compete in four sports this past year. Bell stayed busy with football, wrestling, track and field and bass fishing during this school year.
Bell placed fifth in the 195-pound weight class in a talented region of wrestlers competing from 12 schools last season. He came just short of clinching a spot at state with a fourth-place finish for the second year in a row, despite putting together one of the most complete matches of his career, according to McWherter.
“That match went the full three rounds, and I ended up losing by one point because of a mental mistake with 15 seconds left in the match,” Bell said. “It was heartbreaking knowing I only had one more wrestling match ever, but I also knew I had to set the example for the team and keep my head up.”
However, it was what transpired in the final match of his career which McWherter said attested to Bell’s relentless spirit and insatiable appetite for success.
“He showed me every bit of his character when he went out after that defeat and won his next match to make the alternate spot (for the state tournament),” McWherter said. “Most kids just call it a day and quit, but Dylan didn’t.”
That wasn’t the only time Bell showcased his perseverance. Midway through the season, Bell tore his labrum in his shoulder, sidelining him for a short period and forcing him to wear a brace the rest of the season. But Bell didn’t let this obstacle obstruct him from his goal.
“It really changed how I had to approach my matches and how I wrestled them, but with the help of my coaches they taught me ways to wrestled around the injury,” Bell said. “It was more of a mental thing for me than it was physically; I just had to keep telling myself I’m better than this and I’m not gonna let this hold me back.”
His toughness in the face of adversity wasn’t lost on McWherter, who cited Bell’s dedication to overcoming his injury as the pinnacle of his season.
“I consider his highlight to be overcoming injury, wrestling with pain, not being able to lift his arm through the full range of motion, and still competing.
Bell began wrestling in seventh grade at the persuasion of his football coach, who believed it would make him a better player. While it took a while for him to develop an affinity for wrestling, by his eighth-grade year he was hooked.
“What I enjoyed the most about wrestling was the brotherhood it created inside the team, and also the satisfaction of self-achievement when you win a match,” Bell said.
Bell credits wrestling with helping him develop in other sports like football and track, but perhaps even more importantly were the strides he made as a leader while pursuing the sport. Described as “cool, calm and collected” by McWherter, Bell said he strived to lead by example in all his endeavors. He maintained a 3.5 GPA at Calloway, and Bell ranked in second place on his team in five of the seven statistical categories the Lakers track.
“I really worked on being more vocal with my leadership,” Bell said. “I just tried to push my teammates to make them better in every way possible...I would just give them encouragement and keep the intensity up in the room.”
A leader on the mat and off, Bell has undoubtedly left his imprint on Calloway County wrestling.