Pope John Paul II’s Collins making history at states

HERSHEY — He’s making more and more history every time he steps on a wrestling mat.

But before the weekend is over, Michael Collins is bent on bringing his high school career to a monumental end.

In his first two matches Friday, Collins further cemented his place atop the Pope John Paul II program’s record books. Winning both — albeit under different circumstances — the senior 182-pounder achieved more greatness during the PIAA Championships’ Class AA action at the Giant Center.

A third-period pin of Cambridge Springs’ Hunter Cox made Collins, the program’s first state-level qualifier, the first to win a match at this level. And a close decision of E.L. Meyers’ T.J. Cistrunk insured Collins will have a medal to bring home from Hershey.

A bronze one, quite possibly. With his 3-2 decision of Jefferson Morgan’s Bill Bowlen during the AA evening session, the Golden Panther senior (34-3) will wrestle for third place Saturday against Bermudian Springs’ Colton Dull.

“Placing at states … that was my goal,’ Collins said.

That accomplishment did not come without some drama in the early going. Collins wrestled Cistrunk (32-6) through a scoreless first period, then went up by a 3-1 count in the second.

The score stayed that way through a contentious third period, neither wrestler able to alter the score. Collins had an injury stoppage with about 30 seconds remaining, but he overcame it to secure a spot in the medal round.

“When the match was on the line,’ he said, ” … once I had the (second-period) escape, I knew I had the match. I knew I could beat him on my feet.’

Following Collins’ Thursday opener with Bowlen — a 4-3 loss to the Southwest second seed — PJP assistant coach Selden Staples scoped out bouts involving Cox and Cistrunk. Staples’ expressed confidence in his ability to win against both wrestlers went a long way toward Collins’ mental focus for Friday.

“The coaches’ input is everything to me,’ he said. “It’s really nice to have coaches who care.’

“I think, watching all the guys, we knew what was going to work,’ PJP head coach Jared Every added. “We had plans in place.’

Collins was in complete control of his bout with Cox (34-14), the fourth seed from the Norwest Region. He scored a first-period takedown, reversed Cox from a second-period bottom start and went on to build a 13-point lead heading into the third.

“I just went out and wrestled,’ Collins said. “I just put my mind to it.’

Collins needed only 36 seconds in the third frame to get the slap on Cox, using a cradle to get the history-making state-level win.

“I thought it was a pretty good match,’ Every said. “When he pins in a dominating performance like that, it gets his confidence up.’

Collins’ next opponent was Lehighton’s Connor Frey. Their fourth-round consolation bout went into overtime — that after he forced a 1-1 tie with his escape off the bottom to start the third period — before Collins executed a double-leg takedown with 31 seconds left for his margin of victory.

That set Collins up for a rematch with Bowlen, who was nipped by Franklin’s Dakota Geer in their semifinal 1-0. They wrestled all even through the first two periods, going into the third with a 2-2 score.

But an escape from the bottom with 1:08 left in the bout gave Collins his margin of victory … one he protected through their foot-fighting the rest of the way.

“I was more aggressive this time, not as timid,’ he said. “The second time against him, I knew what to expect.

“This is great. The weekend was completely beyond what I could have imagined. It doesn’t get better than this.’

Short of the highest-possible medal, that is.

“He’s far from done,’ Every said. “We’re excited for him, and very proud.’

NOTES: Collins and the rest of the Class AA medal qualifiers will be back in action Saturday with finals at 2 p.m. The Parade of Champions will precede the bouts at 1:45 p.m.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply