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Family bond

Ike’s Cael Black growing as a wrestler and as a person

Photo contributed by R.L. McCray Eisenhower wrestling coach Kris Black, left, presents a medal to his son, Cael, at least year’s PIAA state tournament.

Cael Black. Kris Black. Wrestling.

Interwoven.

The three will share another big stage on Saturday as father coaches son at the PIAA Class 2A West Super Regional Wrestling Tournament at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“I’ve never experienced wrestling without my dad, and he always has my best interest and the best interest for the team,” said Cael, an Eisenhower High School junior. “Without my father, I don’t how successful I would be.”

Those words mean a lot when you think that the 215-pound qualifier earned a state medal for finishing sixth as a sophomore.

Photo contributed by R.L. McCray Eisenhower’s Cael Black, at left battling Corry’s Hayden Linkerhof, will wrestle in Saturday’s Class AA Super Region Tournament at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with a trip to states on the line for the top four finishers. Black, who was sixth in Hershey last season, is the No. 4 seed and meets No. 5. Eli Reese of Knoch in the noon quarterfinals.

“That was an amazing trip,” said Cael. “Everyone that had helped me succeed was there, and it was an amazing time full of laughs and just great memories.

“At the end of the state tournament last year, I told my coaches and family that my goal was to be top four, and that’s still the goal I am training for today,” he said. “A lot motivates me. My family has given me so much and they really drive me to be the best I can; and using what God has given me to try and be my best self; and I love the sport of wrestling and trying to be successful. … No matter how far I come in my wrestling career, there will always be more that I’ll want to accomplish.”

Kris Black, as Eisenhower head coach, has had a front-row seat.

“As far as coaching Cael, specifically, it has been great,” said Kris. “Honestly, I probably spend the least amount of time with Cael in our room than anyone. I have some absolutely fantastic, knowledgeable people who I trust who have devoted a ton of time working with him, and he does a lot of training on his own. I’m just lucky enough to have that front-row seat to watch him and continue to enjoy the ride wherever it goes.”

The goal is Hershey for the second straight season, and Cael is seeded fourth out of eight at Super Regionals.

The top four in each weight class advance to the PIAA Championships. If it were last season, he’d already be heading there.

He’s only lost three times this season at 23-3, and all to the same opponent, and all close matches. Black was defeated by Corry’s Hayden Linkerhof in the championship finals at sections, districts, and regions. Those were all by decision at 4-3, 9-8, and 4-2, respectively. Obviously, Black has advanced each time.

“Hayden is a great competitor and, yes, it has been great motivation,” said Cael. “As soon as I’m able to look back and reassess what happened and what I can improve on, I do.”

Linkerhof is the second seed at Super Regionals.

The journey to get here has been bittersweet.

“As far as coaching him this season, it has been stressful, not knowing from day to day what was going to happen with COVID or sports,” said Kris, “trying to manipulate practices and scenarios because of shutdowns and various other things that were out of our control. That part has been misery, but that could be said for all coaches in all sports this year.”

For Cael, it’s been difficult not having more of his family at events.

“Some of my closest family have not seen me compete in person in over a year,” he said. “It’s difficult to not have those people there, but I know they’re watching from home and I go out and try and do my best for them.”

Next time they see him in person, they will see a different wrestler than the last time they saw him in person.

“I think a lot has changed,” said Cael. “I’ve tried to develop more offense and to score as many points as possible. But I think the biggest change is that I’m just trying to have fun and keep things lighthearted.”

Like he said earlier, Kris Black has had a front-row seat to all of his son’s 94 career wins, plus much, much more.

“Probably the most rewarding thing, for me, has been the process of watching him grow, both as a wrestler and a person,” said Kris. “I just feel like they are separate entities, but woven together as well. I think with the hard work, focus and determination he puts towards being successful in wrestling, you see more and more of those qualities in him as a person in other areas of life. As a parent, you can’t really ask for more and, as a coach, it is exactly what you should hope for as well. I can’t really try to put into words how much I have enjoyed and valued these times.”

Don’t forget about mom, Natalie.

“If you could also put something in there about my mom, I forgot to mention her in my last interview and she deserves credit,” said Cael. “She is always making sure I’m eating right and putting the right things in my body to stay healthy. She is also my biggest fan, constantly supporting me and making sure I’m on top of things, grades, etc. I would not be where I am today without my mom.”

Interwoven.

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