Pope John Paul’s Collins shows his medal

HERSHEY — To say Michael Collins came to the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships with low expectations would be an understatement.

“I just thought I’d be another wrestler here,’ he said.

But the Pope John Paul II High senior proved to somewhat better than that.

In fact, he’s a state medalist.

That became official Friday afternoon when Collins outlasted T.J. Cistrunk of E.L. Meyers, 3-1, in the third round of consolations to become the first state medalist in the school’s short wrestling history.

“It’s unreal, a dream come true,’ the Panthers senior said. “It’s nothing like anything else I’ve ever experienced in this sport. It’s a blessing to be here.’

Collins had an inauspicious state debut Thursday, losing to Jefferson-Morgan’s Bill Bowlen to drop immediately into the consolation round.

Undaunted, Collins battled back, winning three straight times, capped by the victory over Cistrunk.

Now, with a medal assured, Collins is looking for bigger fish to fry.

“It’s a big weight off my back,’ he said. “Now that I’m placing, it’s just a matter of how high.

“I feel I can compete with anybody across the mat from me. We’ll see what happens next.’

As it turns out, Collins will have very little company on Saturday’s medal podium among the local contingent.

Spring-Ford senior Frankie Krauss will be the lone remaining medalist. Collins’ former teammate at Spring-Ford slipped past Brendan Burnham of Pine-Richland, 4-3, to earn a hunk of state hardware.

Elsewhere, it was slim pickins’ for the locals, and a rough go for the 70-man District One contingent.

Of those 70, just 18 will be state medalists, as even a handful of returning D-1 medalists will not make it back to the podium.

Among the returning-medalist casualties was Spring-Ford’s Ryan Hayes, who was a seventh-place finisher a year ago, but managed just one victory this year, and was eliminated from medal contention in the third round of consolations.

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