Wednesday, February 24, 1999
Collins on a
The Radford wrestler entersBy Cindy Luis
this weekend's state tournament
with a two-year unbeaten streak,
but there's more to his life
At 17, Sean Collins has his priorities pinned down. Literally.
God, family, school, wrestling ... the Radford High School senior has only one word to describe his life: Blessed.
Collins heads into this week's state high school wrestling tourney undefeated over two seasons with a 68-0 record. He'll take to the mats at the Blaisdell Arena as the top seed in the 135-pound class, up 10 pounds from last year.
"If I lose, life will go on," said Collins. "If I lose, it means my opponent was better than me. I've got the utmost respect for the training that other wrestlers put in. I know what they have to do to win. You have to be a fanatic to be a champion.
"If they come out on top, then they deserved it. I'd like to keep the streak going. Ideally, that would end a wonderful two seasons. But if not, then I've been blessed immensely already."
In the two short years since his father Kevin, an Air Force colonel, was transferred to Hickam Air Force Base, Collins has touched an amazing number of lives. He reorganized Radford's Fellowship of Christian Athletes, became a youth leader at church, and has been a mentor to younger wrestlers at camps and clinics.
Even though wrestling and soccer seasons conflicted, he not only participated but was selected the team captain in both. Collins will likely be voted the most inspirational in both as well.
His school-day routine would include a two-hour soccer practice, two-hour wrestling practice then his usual three-mile run around campus. Instead of discussing how tiring it was, all Collins said was, "I was fortunate the coaches allowed me to do both."
"He's just a very special kid, and we've been lucky to have him in our program," said Rams assistant wrestling coach John Kerley. "I feel he's the most dominating wrestler in Hawaii.
"I've never met a better kid. He's not just a good athlete and scholar, but he has this spirit that will not allow him to quit "
There was a tournament last year, said Kerley, where Collins competed with a golf ball-sized boil on his chin. In between the semis and the final, Collins went to a nearby hospital, had the boil lanced, then came back to win the title and the most outstanding wrestler award.
Sean's mother, Barbara, readily admits to her prejudice.
"Sean has always been a great kid, just a joy to be around," she said. "He's determined, tenacious, has very high integrity. Youth group leaders here and in Virginia nicknamed him the Pied Piper. He's a natural leader and he can get kids you wouldn't expect to come to the church activities.
She found out just how much character her younger son had in the recent OIA West championship. He was down, 4-0, to Moanalua's Brandon Maki, came back to tie it a 6-6 before winning by a pin.
"I was amazed because he wasn't rattled, stayed focused and concentrated. He wasn't worried."
Sean Collins said he was concerned. "I'm having a fun time being a teen-ager, but being undefeated is stressful," he said.
"The other guys are always jabbing at me about the streak. They're joking, but it's serious. When you're out there, you think about it. Brandon Maki is a great wrestler. I kept my head in it and feel blessed to have won."
Collins, who has a 3.6 GPA, hopes to wrestle in college. His choices have been narrowed to Wheaton College in Illinois, where his brother Pat wrestles, and the Air Force Academy.
"I feel fortunate to have the kind of parents I do and that's what I want -- a healthy marriage and healthy kids," Collins said.
He already has a healthy attitude.
"Wrestling has made me a better person because, on the mat, if I lose, it's all me. If you win, it's all you. The sport has made me humble in winning and respectful in losing."