Musings from the sports desk: Unusual poise from an uber-talented freshman
By BRANDON HURLEY
The Greene County coaching staff eventually chalked up McKinley Robbins championship defeat to nerves and inexperience.
What stood out most during his three day rampage through the state wrestling tournament was not the freshman’s tremendous talent, but his remarkable poise.
Even when he secured a semifinal victory with resounding ease, punching his ticket to the state championship match, Robbins barely elicited any emotion – just a simple clap before his focus turned to the championship.
On to the next one.
It wasn’t merely how Robbins handled himself on the mat, though he rarely looked rattled, it was also the way he carried himself post-match. Surprisingly, Robbins knew all the right things to say, and truly displayed his knowledge and passion for the sport of wrestling. To Robbins, wrestling isn’t an activity to pass the time while he obtains a high school diploma. He hopes the sport becomes his livelihood.
Even as a young high school athlete, Robbins has his goals set on something greater than a state title. He wants to make his mark at the next level, perhaps even at a Division I college. The 2020 state tournament was a good start, but coming up a tad short was a bit frustrating.
“If I want to wrestle in college, that’s the goal (to win a state title),” Robbins said. “You have to go out and win whatever you can take. That’s all there is to it.”
Frankly, what pops off the page most was Robbins’ poise in the post-match scrums. The freshman understands what it takes to become great. And that’s truly a blessing so early on in a career. He isn’t relying on his natural talent, and that’s quite a skill to possess. One comment in particular stuck out to me following his semifinal win Feb. 21 over Columbus Community’s Lane Scorpil. The junior, ranked fifth in the state, entered the state tournament undefeated, but that did little to scare off Robbins. He knew where Scorpil excelled most and made sure to halt his momentum, throttling his opponent with a 15-5 major decision. When asked about the historic triumph, Robbins quickly put it into perspective. If there were any nerves prior to that match, they were soon put to rest.
“It was just business. I’ve known the scores when he’s caught people, and I just had to go get him,” Robbins said. “He obviously has weaknesses, just like I do, I just had to find his quicker than he found mine.”
Read that again. Sink your teeth into it.
A high school freshman not only had the intelligence to realize such a prophecy, but was able to articulate it mere moments after victory in front of thousands of fans.
This is no ordinary athlete. A runner-up finish is not Robbins’ ceiling. He has the dedication and poise to be a multi-time state champ.
Moments like above dotted each of Robbins’ post-match interviews. Nothing will stand in his way.
Despite that, he still knew a championship appearance was special, even if he did come out on the wrong end.
“It’s pretty exciting being in the finals,” he said post match. “I got what I wanted. All my hard work is paying off.”
Robbins continued, “This is basically my life. You get to live it to the fullest and that’s what I’m going to go do.”
The Ram freshman clearly studies his opponents on and off the mat, when he can. And his appreciation for the intricacies of the sport aren’t lost on him. There’s more to success than wins, and Robbins has already grasped that piece of knowledge.
He’s already headed in the right direction, and there’s plenty more accolades to come.
Greene County head coach Zach Beekman believes a championship run from a freshman grappler will have plenty of residual effects throughout the Ram program.
Robbins set a standard of excellence.
“I hope (our) guys were watching,” the coach said. “To be honest, it’s hard to sit there and talk to them every day about look at what’s going on, pay attention. I hope they’re taking the opportunity to from this experience
Beekman continued, “McKinley was the toughest kid in our room all year and came up a little bit short. We know the level and the expectations of our practice room. Our team has to increase that if we want to be successful.”