by Aaron Garcia
At first, Mike Jacobus’ directive was a joke. The Central Academy wrestling coach was sitting with then-junior heavyweight Will Robinson and a contingent of Cougar wrestlers and their supporters as the group stopped to eat while making its way back from last year’s Class 1A state wrestling tournament. Shortly before, Robinson had claimed his first state championship.
Rather than simply allow him to bask in the glow of success, Jacobus decided to plant a seed in Robinson’s mind.
“Just joking, he looked at me and said, ‘You know you’ve got to go undefeated next year, right?’” recalled Robinson.
While they may have laughed it off at the time, Robinson apparently adopted the goal as his own this season, as the Central Academy senior finished his year – and career – in impressive fashion. Robinson won the heavyweight titles at every tournament the Cougars participated in, including the Monroe Thanksgiving Invitational, the West Montgomery Invitational, the Rosewood Invitational, the North Davidson Crossface Classic Championships, the South Mecklenburg Duals, the Monroe Duals and the Central Academy Duals. In all, Robinson finished Rocky River 1A/2A conference competition with an 8-0 record before claiming a Class 1A East Regional title and repeating as state champ.
And, yes, he did meet Jacobus’ goal with a season record of 52-0, earning him the title of Union County Weekly’s 2010-11 Wrestler of the Year.
“I’m satisfied, I guess, because it’s nice to see something fall into place like you want it to,” Robinson said. “Throughout high school, between football and wrestling, it’s been a huge chunk of time. It’s nice to see something you put so much time into pan out for you like that.”
Robinson chalked up the undefeated mark to a four-year process of constant improvement. As a freshman, Robinson went 11-12 but jumped to 42-7 as a sophomore and earned his first conference title. Last season, Robinson finished 35-3 and won his first regional and state titles.
“This year, there wasn’t much left to do,” said Robinson. “It seemed like (going undefeated) was the natural thing (to do).
“After about 10 or 15 matches into the season, I’d had a couple of close matches, but after that I was just beating people,” he said. “I realized it was an attainable goal. The rest of the year it was extra motivation to go a little harder in practice.”
But just because finishing the season with an undefeated record was a possibility didn’t mean it wasn’t a stressful undertaking, one that Robinson admitted took some getting used to.
“Toward the end, it was actually kind of fun,” he said. “Toward the beginning, it was kind of a burden, but I guess I just embraced it. It really did make for a pretty fun year.”
Robinson also added that wrestling in the heavyweight division also helped his cause since the weight class offers a diverse array of competitors from across the state, which came in handy as he progressed through the state tournament.
“By the end of the year, I was prepared because I had wrestled just about everything you could throw out there,” he said with a chuckle.
But Jacobus said Robinson’s impact extended off the mat as well, as the Cougars’ fledgling program continued to show marked improvements this season. For example, the Cougars had seven wrestlers qualify for the state tournament after only sending two – Robinson and 103-pound champ Daniel Gregorich – last season. Having a state champion in the practice room made the goal more attainable for the other Cougars, explained the coach.
“The guys have looked up to him, and he’s been outstanding helping some of the younger guys,” said Jacobus. “He’s almost like an assistant coach at times in the (wrestling) room. The guys look up to him that much, and they respect how he handles himself on and off the mat.”
Fittingly, Robinson put a dominating stamp on his career with a pin over Swain County’s Christian Crowe in 3 minutes, 55 seconds, giving him his second state championship by way of final-round pin.
“Not many people can say they won a state championship, and even less can say they pinned somebody to win,” said Robinson.
And even fewer can say they did it to cap an undefeated season.