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Cooperman becomes quiet leader

Sophomore Cory Cooperman and freshman Matt Anderson have been friends since they were in fourth grade. The two hung out constantly, played sports together, did all of the things young boys do and had a fairy tale relationship.

Cory Cooperman.

But, when the two grew up, they lost touch. “We just got so busy with everything and then I went to a different high school than Matt, it just made it real difficult to stay as close as we were,” Cooperman says.

So, when the time came and Cooperman wanted to transfer from the University of Minnesota, what were the chances that his lifelong friend would be at Lehigh waiting for him?

“I actually saw Matt when I was visiting Lehigh and he was considering coming here. I told him that I was transferring here and that pretty much finalized his decision. I had made up my mind that I was coming to Lehigh, that was my choice and to have Matt with me was just a blessing.”

Anderson says that it is an honor to be at Lehigh with a talent like that of Cooperman. “Cory is just a great person, as well as a great wrestler. I am honored and still kind of in shock that I am on the same college team, a national power nonetheless, with him,” Anderson explains. “Cory and I are really close, he’s like a role model to me. I have confided in him so many things, like advice on school, life and of course wrestling. He is a great guy and an unbelievable talent, worthy of all of the attention he gets.”

Cooperman adds, “My family and Matt’s are real close. His grandfather has always been special to me, having watched over me and provided tremendous guidance. Matt and I have a real special friendship and it’s great to be going to college together.”

What was it like for Cooperman when he first came to South Bethlehem? “Derek Zinck came right up to me and shook my hand, and all of the guys were just great right from the beginning. This is such a fantastic group of guys we have here. We are all so tight-knit, with the way we joke around with each other, but we also push one other so hard on the mat. I can always count on one of my teammates to train with me, whether it’s lifting, running or doing some mat work.”

Head Coach Greg Strobel says that Cooperman was no stranger when he was introduced to his new Mountain Hawk teammates.

“We recruited Cory out of high school, so it was more like welcome back than it was nice to meet you. He also knew some of the guys on the team from camps and high school competition, so he fit in perfectly.” Strobel says. “When Cory came here we really wanted him to be a leader and now he is starting to grasp that. He is getting it done in the classroom and on the mat, and is quietly becoming a great leader for our wrestling team.”

Cooperman, who says that his parents were not huge wrestling fanatics when he was growing up, credits his mom and dad for helping him get where he is today.

“Even though my parents weren’t into wrestling that much, they never stood in the way of my dream," Cooperman says. "Once they saw how well I was doing they took me to tournaments, enrolled me in camps, and just did anything possible to help me out.”

“I had played baseball and some other sports when I was younger, but the individual part of wrestling really intrigued me, so I made the decision to solely focus on wrestling,” he adds.

Cooperman’s father took the artistic approach toward helping his son with wrestling. "My dad is an artist of sorts, so when it came time to turn one of the rooms in our house into a training room, my dad painted a huge mural on the wall and hung all kinds of wrestling pictures and photographs on the walls. My grandparents bought me weights, and just like that I had an outstanding training room.”

Cooperman says that the pictures and mural his father made for him provided inspiration while he trained. “It was definitely a little more livelier than other wrestling rooms. I would just go in there, blast some music and I was in my zone. I couldn’t have done anything without the support of my parents.”

Cooperman says that adjusting to Lehigh life was not as difficult as it sometimes is for transfer students.

“I was a little worried about the academics, if I would be able to handle them, but I just worked hard and now I have a firm grasp on all of my studies,” he says. “The coaches were all so fantastic too, which was a huge factor in my choosing Lehigh. Coach Strobel, Chris Ayres and former assistant Pat Santoro, were all just awesome. They have so much knowledge and experience between them. Coach Ayres took me under his wing and he has helped me a great deal.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2004

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