Conway wrestler Austin Collins has some unfinished business he wants to take care of in 2020.
Collins won the Region VI-5A title and posted a 27-1 record this past season, but injured himself during preparations for the state qualifier and didn’t get to realize his ultimate goal.
“I pulled a back muscle in practice for the state qualifier,” he said. “I wonder how I would have done. I feel like I have something to prove this year.”
Although he is only 16-years-old, Collins already has several state championships to his credit. He won a gold medal through the S.C. High School League in middle school, and also captured state titles through the S.C. Youth Wrestling Association as a member of the Rivertown Wrestling Club as both a sixth and eighth grader.
His goal for the remainder of his high school career is to win multiple state tournament medals.
Collins is 9-1 this season at 145 pounds, but hopes to cut his weight to 138 pounds by the time the state tournament arrives. He has recorded a majority of his victories by pins. Collins believes endurance and hard work in the offseason are key ingredients in his success.
“I try to do a lot of the work in the offseason, do something no one else is doing,” he said. “I’ll get together with some of the guys on my team, lift weights and work on my power and strength. Before the season starts, I begin endurance testing.”
That endurance comes in handy in grueling, six-minute matches.
“The first round is easy,” Collins said. “Then your hands start to cramp up.”
One of the ways Collins likes to mentally prepare for matches is to think about what is going to transpire and envision how he is going to handle the situation before the match ever begins.
“When it’s over and I’ve won, I can take a break until the next match,” he said. “It feels good.”
Collins began wrestling as a 4-year-old with the Rivertown Wrestling Club that was started by his father Ben Collins and another former Conway High School wrestler and former state champion Kenya Keith.
The elder Collins won several region titles in high school under former coaches Nate Thompson and Matt Anderson, but never advanced to the state finals.
The two often joke about which one is more talented.
“He knows I’m better,” the teen said.
Austin Collins isn’t the only talented wrestler in his family.
His younger brother Ethan is a seventh grader and a member of the Tigers’ B-team program. He has wrestled since he was 4-year-old with the Rivertown Wrestling Club. Ethan has won both of his matches this season, including one by pin and the other by score. Ethan hopes to beat his big brother’s records and win consecutive middle school state titles.
Although this is just Austin Collins’ second year on the varsity team, he has won several big matches for the Tigers. Wrestling against athletes from New Hanover and South Brunswick in a tri-match in December in Wilmington, N.C., earlier this season was especially memorable. The Tigers defeated the host Wildcats in the team competition and came up one point short of South Brunswick.
Collins has high hopes for the Tigers, whose lone senior is defending state runner-up Christopher “Lubo” Handl.
“I think we have a solid team.” Collins said. “My goal is to win the region. I think we can do it if we can avoid pins and get a few pins of our own. We have a lot of young kids. We’ll be solid for years to come.”
One of the things Collins enjoys most about wrestling is the friendships.
“Winning is important, but you have a lot of friends,” he said. “You have a lot of friends on the team and you make friends at camps over the summer.”
Collins is considering wrestling at The Citadel after graduating from high school. His favorite subject is agriculture.
The teen is a member of the baseball program at Conway High School, and also competes in the Horry American Legion Post 111 of Conway’s baseball program.
Collins is an outfielder, but also mans the catcher’s position when called upon.
“I catch the bullpen and when they need me, I catch in the game,” he said.
The Atlanta Braves is Collins favorite Major League Baseball team and his favorite player is pitcher Max Fried.
When he’s not wrestling or playing baseball, Collins enjoys fishing, working out and lifting weights. He is also learning to play the banjo “so I will have something to do when I’m grounded.”
Collins describes himself as the class clown.
“I’m funny and athletic,” he said. “I like to tell jokes.”
He also enjoys working with the younger kids in the Rivertown Wrestling Club.