FERNDALE — It’s not Ferndale High senior Wayne Williams’ only move on the mat, but when the wrestler locks his opponent in a cradle, he believes the match is all but over.
“The cradle is my signature move. I feel in complete control,” he said during a brief break in practice at Southfield High Feb. 21. “If I try it and it doesn’t work, I’ll go for something else, but nine times out of 10, it works. It feels like the match is over, and I’m just looking for the ref.”
Williams will rely on his move and others in his arsenal at the Division 2 individual state final Feb. 27 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. He qualified at 171 pounds and is 24-9 on the year.
Coach John Bassier said Williams’ style tends to be unorthodox, which works to his advantage and disadvantage at times.
“I joke with the other coaches, we’re not going to change him right now — we don’t have time,” Bassier said. “I just keep reminding him that he has to do what he does best.”
This year is Williams’ first on the varsity level. He wrestled on JV for Southfield as a sophomore before transferring to Ferndale. Last season, he didn’t wrestle.
Vernon Burden was his coach at Southfield and isn’t surprised to see him as one of the best grapplers in the state.
“You knew he had something different,” Burden said of watching Williams as a sophomore. “You see those natural hips and his throwing ability.”
Though Bassier is “pleasantly surprised” Williams could make it with just one varsity year under his belt, he said his grappler isn’t satisfied with just being there.
“Some kids are excited going to the state finals, and that’s where it ends, but he wants to be All-State. If things go his way and he catches people, he could be our next All-Stater,” the coach said. “I really don’t rule Wayne out in any situation.”
Williams credited Bassier, assistant coach Mike Crossley and his dad, Wayne Williams Sr., for helping him get to where he is now.
“They’re like my backbone,” he said. “Whenever I was feeling low, they were always there to pick me up.”
Williams added that he’s going to give his best shot to get on the podium.
“I look at the regular season as one big practice. You go to practice, work on a move and then try it in a match,” Williams said. “When it gets to states, it’s time to do it. No dress rehearsals.”