Noble High senior Derek Cote won his third individual state title in February and led the Knights to the Class A championship. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Derek Cote was born with significant visual impairment. He is legally blind. So traditional stick-and-ball sports were not going to be an option.

“My parents were looking for something for me to do,” Cote said. “They gave me the option of either wrestling or swimming and I wanted to do wrestling, but I told them I wasn’t going to do it unless my brother (Josh) did it with me.

“I was 4 years old and he was 6,” said Cote, now a senior at Noble High in North Berwick.

Josh Cote, a 2021 graduate of Noble, said he doesn’t remember there being a swimming option.

“As a 6-year-old, I didn’t feel I was making any real commitment to anything. It’s just going to be fun,” Josh Cote said. “But man, thank God we chose wrestling.”

This season, Derek Cote matched his brother by winning his third Class A title. It’s likely both brothers would have won four state titles, but each lost a season – Josh’s senior year, Derek’s sophomore year – when the 2020-21 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.


After winning at 113 pounds as a freshman and 138 pounds last season as a junior, Derek Cote rolled to 152-pound titles this season at the Class A state meet and New England Qualifier tournament. For his career, Cote was unbeaten against Maine wrestlers.

Cote placed fourth at the New England championships, after finishing fifth as a junior. He joined Decota Cotten (champion in 2003 and 2004) and Austin Shorey (third in 2016, sixth in 2017) as the only Noble wrestlers to place multiple times at New Englands since Maine wrestlers returned to the competition in 1999.

Cote also was a key leader for the Knights, who won the Class A team championship, as they had done in Cote’s freshman season. For his successes and also his technical superiority, Cote is the 2023 Varsity Maine Boys’ Wrestler of the Year.

“I’m pretty stoked about it,” Cote said of the honor. “I’ve been working hard for quite some time now, and it’s nice to see that other people have noticed my hard work.”

Cote said his early days of wrestling were important. The sport became the family activity, and both boys were soon excelling.

“Josh was a huge help for me, not to mention it was just fun doing everything with him. Growing up, he’s been my best friend, and he’s still my best friend,” Cote said.


Cote’s vision suffers from both nystagmus, which causes his eyes to be shaky and makes him “super light-sensitive,” and achromatopsia, which in his case greatly reduces depth perception and causes color blindness. During the day, he wears red-tinted contacts to help decrease light sensitivity. He said he doesn’t expect to ever be able to drive a car.

But on the mat, his vision is not a handicap.

“Not really, because honestly, I’ve been doing it for so long, my feel is pretty good,” Cote said. “I have good situation awareness with my feel. I know where I am at all points during the match.”

At the start of each match, Cote is allowed to touch hands with his opponent in a manner that looks similar to the old hand-slap game.

Noble Coach Kevin Gray said when the Knights travel out of state, he alerts opposing coaches about Cote being legally blind and using the adaptive touch rule.

“We went down to New York for Eastern States this year, and before his first match, I went to talk to the other coach and the coach was, ‘Oh yeah, we know who he is.’ ” Gray said. “That some random coach in New York knew who Derek was and I didn’t even have to explain anything to him tells you people know how good he is.”

Cote is still undecided on where he will attend college, but is sure he wants to continue to wrestle.

“Wrestling has been such a huge part of my life, and it’s played such a huge role in me learning to overcome my visual impairedness, I just can’t see myself letting go of it right now,” Cote said.

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