Wrestling state champion by day and theater star by night, recent graduate Nathanael Cole is living proof that one can have the best of both worlds.
Choosing between the arts and athletics never had to be a choice for him–he’s been singing since the age of 5 and now plays the violin, banjo, double bass, mandolin, and guitar, in addition to his participation in wrestling, football, and track & field. Surrounded by supportive family, teachers, and coaches, Nathanael began to “thrive at something I never thought I would be a part of it you asked me my freshman year.”
Such involvement in extracurricular activities usually requires sacrifice, but Nathanael believes you can do anything with good time management and flexibility. Even when his state championship match fell on closing night of Beauty and the Beast, in which he starred, he was able to make it work.
Cooperation, compromise, and commitment.
Nathanael was seemingly the perfect fit to play the hulking Beast. Due to his physical frame, built by years of athletic training, and musical capabilities, cultivated by years of private lessons, he seemed to fit the role perfectly. The only catch was February 11, 2023.
That Saturday was the state championship match for the individual category, of whom Nathanael was a contender. That night was the closing night for Ben Lippen’s production of Beauty and the Beast, the first sold-out theater show the school had ever performed. While it seemed impossible, Nathanael took the challenge head-on and outdid himself in both events.
He placed first in his weight class in SCSIA’s 2023 Wrestling Individual Tournament and raced back to campus to don his heavy costume, where, after giving a phenomenal performance, he and the rest of the cast received a standing ovation.
“That day was probably the greatest day of my high school experience,” he said. “There were so many emotions and they all worked together to make it the best experience of my life.”
Winning the state championship was a sweet moment for Nathanael: a moment he had been striving for since the 8th grade and was almost derailed by a season-ending shoulder surgery his junior year. However, he thinks having another year to train and prepare helped him in the end.
“All in all it was a surreal feeling,” he said, “because all of the hard work and trials God sent my way paid off in the end.”
On the way back to the Performing Arts Center, he had his doubts about his ability to perform. He had already acted and sung his heart out the two nights prior, in addition to using mental energy on schoolwork and being physically tired from his championship match. But he remembered he still had one job left to do, and he was going to give it his all.
“After winning state and then driving back to Columbia to finish the last show, I was very exhausted and unsure of what i was capable of in terms of my vocal chords and energy, but I was excited that I had the opportunity to give everything on the mat, and then give everything on the stage,” he said.
Needless to say, he was welcomed back to uproarious applause.
His recent graduation doesn’t mean his time in the arts and athletics are done. He will be playing football at Wofford College in the fall and is already enrolled in their choir program. While he is currently majoring in business and pre-health, he hasn’t put a career in music or athleticism out of his mind entirely.
“Whichever opportunity God puts before me, I will be satisfied with.”