GUYTON — In his last season on the mat for South Effingham, Austin Blaske isn't taking any bout lightly.
Blaske's punishing moves have catapulted him to an 18-0 record in the 285-pound class. Staying unbeaten is not his objective, however.
"Going undefeated would be nice but I really just want the state title," Blaske said.
On the football field, Blaske wreaked havoc on the offensive line. His 6-foot-6 frame and athleticism earned him a scholarship from North Carolina State but, on the wrestling mat, he has endured his share of struggles.
It was those hardships that made him realize he needed to conquer whatever held him back from winning the state title in the heavyweight division last year. Going into his senior season, he contemplated whether or not he wanted to give wrestling another shot. After all, most of his success has come from annihilating defensive ends. But Blaske knew deep down inside he had a lot left in him and didn’t want to regret walking away from the sport in years to come.
"Last year, I got second and I am not satisfied with that," Blaske said. “I think knowing that I had a good chance and win state (helped). It’s going to be my last year to wrestle. It's going to be my last year to hang out with my wrestling friends.
“I think I would have looked back when I'm in my thirties and forties and realized I could have been a state champion and I don't want to miss that opportunity."
Blaske likes the idea of wrestling because of the strategy it takes and because it's helped shape him into the football player he is today.
"It's really helped me learn to control my body movements, especially in my hips," Blaske said. “My smaller muscles have become stronger because you are using every muscle."
Blaske even considered wrestling for the Wolfpack but wants to stay laser focused on his dream of playing in the NFL. But he did admit he'll be coaching from the stands.
"I thought about it, but I just want to focus on football," he said. "Hopefully I can get to the next level after college. But I’ll definitely be going to some wrestling matches.”
Although he's ranked as the No. 1 wrestler in Class AAAAA, he refuses to take his opponents lightly. Blaske knows his ranking doesn't mean much to his opponents.
With that in mind, Blaske has made mental notes of every guy he's competed against. And when it's time for them to meet again, he beats them with the same strategy he used to defeat them the first time.
"I want to be smart because there could be someone I've never seen before," Blaske said. "So far I've had to use strength — but (sometimes) I use technique. The ones I've already wrestled, I remember because I've already wrestled them two or three times."
Blaske finished first in the heavyweight division in the Annual Rebel Invite. Each medal he collects means a little bit more this season.
As he reflects on his career as a wrestler, he can't help but think about what it would be like to stand on top of the podium as an individual and with his team.
"The team title is the main goal, especially because of coach Christoper Bringer," Blaske said. "He has come in and changed the whole program. This year it is blood in the water.
“I really want to go get it this year."