Jay Cornish is no stranger to wrestling competition.
He has numerous state and national AAU titles and multiple World AAU medals in folkstyle wrestling,, and now serves as an assistant coach for the Athens Drive High wrestling team.
Cornish, 38, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete when the USA Wrestling Beach National Championship came to Carolina Beach in April, so he made the trip to try his hand at a new form of wrestling.
His performance landed him the opportunity of a lifetime.
Cornish finished as runner-up in the event, which doubled as the world team trials to qualify for the FILA Beach Wrestling World Championships in El Jadida, Morocco, last weekend. The World Championship drew competitors from 39 countries.
“All the planets aligned this year,” Cornish said.
It was his first time trying his hand at beach wrestling, which was a very different experience despite his background.
“Beach wrestling is so much faster and so much less forgiving,” he said. “There is no time to adjust and recover. … You don’t have to be the prototypical machine-like athlete in order to be successful.
“There’s more an element of luck to it than I’ve seen in any other style. It’s more mental than it is physical.”
In addition to being an inspiration by competing at his age, Cornish is also an example of never giving up despite life’s setbacks.
After competing in high school and college, Cornish was injured in a work-related accident.
“I was two millimeters away from being a paraplegic,” he said.
His neck is now held by a titanium plate.
His wife, Marie, has seen Cornish’s determination since the accident.
“Ever since then, he was determined that he wasn’t going to let that slow him down,” Marie Cornish said. “He started getting involved with wrestling again. … If he didn’t wrestle, he probably would focus more on his injuries.”
Trey Cornish, 16, said seeing his father continue to compete gives him something to strive for.
“I know the fact that I’m competing now and competing at this level is already motivation for them,” Cornish said of his son and the other wrestlers at Athens Drive.