All Levi Bell wanted was a state sweatshirt, even if it meant getting one with a broken ankle.
The Cedar Park wrestler made it to the state tournament last season despite fracturing his ankle during his semifinal win at the regional tournament. He didn’t win either of his matches in Cypress, but he’s using that experience to aim for a podium position this season.
“It’s really hard to go to state, and the years before that I tried really hard and didn’t make it,” he said. “I didn’t want to give it up and forfeit. I wanted to at least try. I want to place at state (this year).”
Bell is coming off another strong season on the football team, finishing third on the team with 75 tackles. He helped the Timberwolves advance to the third round and win at least 10 games for the eighth straight season.
The result is a jump up in weight class moving from the 195-pound weight class to 220 pounds.
In his first two tournaments at the higher weight — at the Hill Country Invitational on Dec. 16 and the Doc Hess Invitational on Dec. 23 — Bell has a pair of second-place finishes. He lost to Westlake’s Randall Pulido in the finals of both tournaments.
Cedar Park wrestling coach Nick Asmus simply calls Bell “a dude.”
“It’s great having him on the team because you know what you’re going to get out of him,” Asmus said. “He’s going to give you his max every time and you don’t ever have to question his effort.”
The Timberwolves have a lot of youth on the roster and expect to be strong in the upper weight classes, anchored by Bell. As a team, they finished ninth of 21 teams at the Hill Country Invitational and 22nd of 30 teams at the Doc Hess Tournament.
Asmus said Bell is also one of the biggest cheerleaders on the team. The senior is right alongside Asmus when a teammate is wrestling and will take over taping the match if Cedar Park is competing on two mats at the same time.
“He’s a born leader and wherever he goes, the rest of the team wants to follow,” Asmus said. “To hear him when someone else is wrestling, he’s there yelling and encouraging because their wins mean just as much to him as his wins mean to him.”
The Timberwolves will next compete at the Russ Pederson Invitational at San Antonio Johnson on Jan. 12 and 13. The regional tournament is at the Delco Center on Feb. 16 and 17, and the state tournament is at the Berry Center in Cypress from Feb. 22-24.
Bell said his goal is to get back to state and finish on the medal stand. Asmus is aiming even higher.
“The top of the medal stand is where he needs to be,” Asmus said. “He’s got the skills and the ability to do so. Focus is never a question with him. It’s just about getting the mat time. We have plenty of time to get him there and he’ll put in the work to get it done.”
After his first match of the season, his opponent from San Antonio Churchill approached the senior and told him it was the hardest match he’d ever been in.
A Cedar Park teammate followed close behind with the praise and said if anyone beat Bell, he'd be genuinely scared of them.
“Each year, it seems like it becomes more mental,” Bell said. “It’s like muscle memory. I don’t have to think. Each year it gets easier.”