Kyle Akins had just left the University of Buffalo, but the Sycamore senior knew he wanted to go back.
After an official recruiting visit this past weekend, Akins, a three-time state qualifying wrestler and the 2013 Class 2A 113-pound champion, offered his commitment to Bulls coach John Stutzman.
“The new coaching staff at Buffalo is unbelievable,” Akins said of Stutzman, who was a Northern Illinois assistant coach for a year when Spartans’ coach Alex Nelson wrestled for the Huskies. “[The staff] has a great background. They’ve coached NCAA qualifiers and have experience on the international level as well.”
Akins made his college selection before the start of wrestling season because he wanted to avoid distractions during his final prep campaign. He expects to redshirt as a freshman in 2014-15 because Buffalo’s 2013 NCAA qualifier Max Soria will be a redshirt senior at 125 pounds.
“I wanted to take the pressure of picking a school off me,” said Akins, who will study occupational therapy at Buffalo. “It will allow me to enjoy my season.”
A former collegiate wrestler himself, Nelson was familiar with the recruitment process. Throughout Akins’ decision-making process, Nelson said he was there to offer support and answer any questions.
Akins texted Nelson during his visit to Buffalo, a school he chose over Northern Illinois, Pittsburgh, Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion.
“When it comes to making a school decision, you’ll know it when you are there,” Nelson said. “You walk around campus, stay with wrestlers on the team and visit the facilities. You get a feel for if you can fit in and grow as a student and an athlete at the school.
“Kyle felt Buffalo as a school and as a wrestling program was the best fit for him. The Sycamore wrestling program is 100 percent behind him and happy for him. He’s worked incredibly hard to create a great opportunity.”
A redshirt year will help Akins prepare for the academic and physical rigors of an NCAA wrestling season. But once he hits the mat for the Bulls, he has lofty goals that mirror the path of his prep career.
“Being up on the podium every year in college is my goal,” Akins said. “I want to be an All-American a few times and am ready to put in the hard work necessary. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I’ve got a senior season and want to repeat as a state champion.
“Again, I don’t want to look to far ahead, but I’d like to do it with a clean sheet this year and win every match.”
Akins' state final finishes
2013: Defeated Montini's Tommy Pawelski, 3-0, in Class 2A finals at 113 pounds
2012: Lost to Montini's Jordan Laster, 3-2, in Class 2A third-place match at 113 pounds
2011: Defeated Crystal Lake Central's Michael Zelasco, 3-1, in Class 2A third-place match at 112 pounds