Croatan standout wrestler Drake Egan, on the top podium step of the Beast of the East tourney holding his division's bracket card, has been named Student-Athlete of the Week. (Contributed photo)

OCEAN — High school student-athletes only get four years to participate in sports, so to lose one is life-changing

Drake Egan learned that lesson the hard way. The Croatan wrestler missed his junior campaign after tearing the meniscus in his knee.

“It affected me pretty hard,” he said. “I wasn’t the happiest camper.”

If there was a silver lining to losing out on his junior season, it came in the form of a pandemic-amended schedule that saw wrestlers get on the mat for just about 25 matches. There was also no dual-team tournament.

“If I was going to miss a year, I’d much rather have it been that year compared to any other year,” Egan said.

The senior looks like he did as a sophomore, going 22-4 with titles in the Swiss Bear and Beast of the East events.

“I’m really happy with how I’m doing,” he said. “I still have a lot I have to improve on before states come around, but I’m definitely picking up where I left off as a sophomore.”

He earned a 7-0 decision over D.H. Conley’s Carson Hathaway (37-5) in the Swiss Bear 160-pound final and pinned White Oak’s De’Jon Fifer (25-9) in the Beast of the East 160-pound final.

Egan raised some eyebrows as a sophomore, going 40-14, winning a conference title at 145 pounds and finishing third in the 2A east region to qualify for the state tournament.

“I was extremely surprised by my sophomore season,” he said. “I was pushing myself really hard.”

It stood in stark contrast to his freshman year when he went 3-12 on the mat.

“It wasn’t a very good season,” Egan said. “It was a huge jump to my sophomore year. I think it was wrestling in all those varsity matches and getting my butt kicked. It really fired something up inside of me. It paid off.”

Egan said he knew it was going to be different as a sophomore when he went 3-0 in dramatic fashion at 152 pounds in the first quad match of the season.

He earned a 13-11 sudden victory over Corinth Holders’ Joey Norman (2-5), a 12-11 decision over North Pitt’s Andrew Mizell, and a 10-8 ultimate tiebreaker over Washington’s Mykel Warren (43-10). Warren went on to finish second in the east region, while Mizell took fourth.

“It was three painfully hard matches,” he said.

In addition to his conference and regional performances as a sophomore, he finished third in both the Swiss Bear and Beast of the East events and took fourth in the Homer Spring Dixon Bulldog Tournament.

His success had him entering his junior season with big goals.

“I had ambitions to place that year,” he said. “It was difficult.”

Egan also contributed to a state runner-up finish for Croatan in the 2A dual tournament.

Trailing Washington 21-13 in the regional semifinal, the Cougars won three straight matches by pin, including Egan’s pin of Koby Monday (14-17) in 1:26, to come back and win 37-28. They also overcame a 24-6 deficit to Trinity before rallying for a 33-30 win to capture their third straight 2A east regional.

Croatan went on to lose in the state final for the third year in a row with a 59-9 defeat to Fred T. Foard.

“That Foard loss wasn’t exciting, but they were a good team, and we were happy to make it that far,” Egan said. “We worked our butts off to get there.”

Many thought it would be far fetched to see the Cougars in a fourth consecutive dual-team state final in what looked to be a rebuilding year, but they’ve been a surprise so far, jumping out to a 10-1 record and going 3-0 in a tough 3A Coastal Conference.

“I won’t lie, the seniors, we weren’t confident about the lower weights at the beginning of the season,” Egan said. “They’ve completely blown all of us out of the water. All of our expectations have gone out of the window. They shocked every single one of us. We’re really ecstatic about their performance and how much they’ve improved just since the beginning of the season.”

Egan’s wrestling career will likely come to an end after this winter as he seeks to pursue a tough college major in aeronautical engineering at either N.C. State or Virginia Tech.

“Since middle school, I’ve had my mind set on engineering, and over the years, I narrowed it down to aeronautical engineering,” said Egan who sports a 3.5 GPA. “There is a lot of aviation in my family. My dad is a retired pilot in the Marine Corps, and my uncle, a Navy pilot. I’ve always been in that environment, around planes, interested in how they work.”

Here are a few of Egan’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse, and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:

Favorite Movie: “Red Dawn.”

Favorite TV Show: “Big Bang Theory.”

Favorite Cartoon: “Inside Job.”

Favorite Band/Artist: Polo G.

Favorite Song: “a m a r i” by J. Cole.

Favorite Book: “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.

Favorite Team: N.C. State Wolfpack wrestling.

Favorite Athlete: Nick Suriano.

Favorite Vacation: Billings, Mont.

Favorite Hobby: Wrestling.

Favorite Subject: Science.

Favorite Quote: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

Favorite Food: Breakfast burrito.

Favorite Drink: BodyArmor Edge.

Favorite Restaurant: BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Favorite Season: Summer.

Favorite Sports Memory: “Going to the Disney Duals after my freshman year.”

Favorite Teacher: Mr. Johnathon Rigsby.

Favorite Sport: Wrestling.

Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Drinking Jamba Juice.

Favorite Website/App: YouTube.

Favorite Follow on Social Media: NCAAWrestling.

Ideal Dinner Guest List: Elon Musk, Kyle Dake, the Wright brothers and Ken Block.

Ideal Group to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: Blake McCabe, Landon Gray, Colton Leiske, Eli Simonette, Cody Raymond and coach Johnathon “Bean” Rigsby.

Items For A Deserted Island: Life straw, paracord, flares, mosquito net, Swiss Army knife.

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