GJ's Collins off to solid start, but knows there is work to do
Dawson Collins moves with a graceful confidence and a mature intensity.
He’s in control, dictating to his opponent, picking his spots to shoot in for a quick takedown, then controlling the action on the mat.
All good wrestlers have this demeanor. All good wrestlers are working to be great wrestlers.
Collins is a special wrestler for Grand Junction High School.
He’s a freshman phenom. Every year there are a handful of youngsters that emerge around the state but Collins is already one of the best 106 pounders in Class 5A.
“It’s been a good season so far, the competition has been tough,” Collins said after winning the Jackpot Duals title on Wednesday.
Collins doesn’t have an ounce of cockiness in his 106 pounds. But the smiling freshman is confident and that confidence comes from an impressive 22-1 record after this weekend, including a title at the Warrior Classic.
As special as that Warrior Classic title was, Collins also put it in perspective.
“There were a lot of kids that weren’t in my weight class from 5A, so I can’t look at that and say I’m good enough,” he said.
There may not have been tough 5A competitors in the 106-pound bracket at the Warrior Classic, but Collins did defeat the top two ranked wrestlers from 4A and the No. 2 ranked wrestler from 3A en route to the title.
Currently, Collins is ranked No. 3 at 106 in 5A.
Last year, Collins won the middle school state championship, so he came in with high expectations as a freshman. But he also knew it would be a tougher challenge.
“Middle school to high school is a big change. High schoolers are a lot more aggressive,” he said. “I have to go to the gym a lot more and train harder.”
Coach Cole Allison said talent is one thing but what has put Collins on the track to greatness is his commitment.
Allison knew what he was getting when the former middle school state champ arrived.
“It is as expected,” Allison said. “Dawson came in as a pretty accomplished wrestler already but he has the work ethic to back it up. No matter what we’re showing him or little areas we’re working on with him, he attacks it and keeps going, getting better every week.
“I’m not surprised by his results at all.”
Whenever a talented freshman arrives on the scene, there’s a natural look ahead to the historic possibilities.
Currently there are 19 Colorado wrestlers with four state titles and a couple more around the state looking to achieve that over the next couple of years. The only shot at history starts with a title as a freshman.
Grand Junction has some recent history when it comes to coming close.
Jacob Truijillo lost as a freshman but won the next three state titles, the final one coming in 2015.
There were heaping expectations on current junior Josiah Rider when he arrived at Grand Junction. But he lost in the semifinals and had to settle for third place as a freshman. He won a state title last year.
Regardless of what grade a wrestler is in, the expectations take a natural peek ahead to the state tournament. That’s always the goal and Collins has already given that possibility some thought.
“I knew it was going to be a lot harder,” he said about the jump to high school. “It was going to be a step up, but I was looking forward to it. Yeah, I was looking at state when I came in.”
He’s even familiar with the two wrestlers ahead of him, including Malik Heinselman of Castle View. Collins has wrestled the No. 1-ranked 5A wrestler twice in the past.
“I think I have a good shot at state, but the kid ranked No. 1, he beat me the last time we wrestled and the time before I beat him,” Collins said.
For now, Collins is just focused on improvement and working hard in the wrestling room. He even quickly identifies the area he needs to work on the most.
“I gotta keep working on my feet, I’m still a little contained on my feet,” he said. “If I can get better on my feet, I think I’ll be right there at state.”
If he keeps going the way he’s started his high school career, come Feb. 18, Dawson Collins might accomplish a pretty special feat as a freshman.