Kyle Akins is in on a title hunt.
The Sycamore senior will compete Saturday at the 21st annual Illinois and Indiana Classic Duals at Hinsdale Central. The friendly offseason contest that pits seniors from neighboring states isn’t the title Akins wanted.
Nor is it the title he ultimately wants.
Akins’ quest to become a back-to-back Class 2A state champion was derailed last month with a runner-up finish. He bounced back quickly and promptly returned to the mat room. With the work ethic and desire to improve that led him to be a four-time state place winner, time off isn’t part of Akins’ routine.
It’s what led him to a dominant season and his second consecutive honor as the Daily Chronicle Wrestler of the Year.
“It will be great to compete with some of the friends I’ve made around the state over the course of my career,” said Akins about the Illinois and Indiana Classic. “It’s one of my last moments as a high school wrestler and I want to enjoy it. I know next year I’ve got to go to a whole new level as a college wrestler.
Everyone is talented and you’ve got to wrestle the whole seven minutes of a match. I am going to condition my body to be physically ready and my mind to be mentally tuned in all the time.”
After a 7-0 loss to Montini sophomore Dylan Duncan, Akins was emotionally drained. He’d felt the burden of carrying an undefeated record and heard the buzz from a wrestling community eager to see him again ascend to the top of the medal stand.
The distractions were bountiful and Akins admits, he’d lost the razor-sharp focus that he’d carried all season. But it served as a lesson. As a Division I wrestler at the University at Buffalo, Akins knows both his physical and mental stamina will be tested as he hunts for the title he seeks.
A title that will define his career.
“I was crushed,” Akins said. “It felt like all the preparation I had done didn’t pay off. But then I realized, in college, no one knows who won a high school state championship.
“It’s all about being an All-American or winning a national title. That’s what I am focused on now.”
With experience as a wrestler and coach, Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said Akins has the proper pedigree.
“Champions don’t wake up and sulk for a month or two after a setback,” Nelson said. “They work hard to get better so they can again get the results they want. This is where Kyle writes his next chapter.
“There are Olympians and guys that made it to the national finals that didn’t win their high school state title. In college, no one is going to remember if he is a two-time state champion or not. He has what it takes to get to that level. He trains against the top wrestlers in the country and does things daily to get better.”
Daily Chronicle All-Area Wrestling Team
Kyle Akins, sr., Sycamore
The most prolific wrestler in Sycamore history was the 2013 Class 2A state champion, the Spartans’ only four-time state qualifier and runner-up this year at 120 pounds.
The Buffalo recruit added four conference championships to his impressive collection of tournament titles.
“He wants to be an All American,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “He wants to be in the national finals and he has the talent and drive to do it.”
Ulises Jacobo, so., DeKalb
DeKalb wrestlers are known to employ a physical style. But Jacobo was an outlier who used his freestyle experience and technical skills to come within a match of placing at the Class 3A state meet.
The Barbs’ 106-pounder has two offseasons to meet his career goal of winning a state title.
“Ulises is just scrappy,” DeKalb coach Mike Pater said. “He will go out and find a way to beat good guys. He goes hard and has a desire to win.”
Matt Macarus, sr., DeKalb
“For four years, Matt was the guy you want on every team in the mat room,” Pater said. “He was a great leader and we always depended on him to not just win but to score bonus points for the team.”
Chris Malone, jr., Sycamore
The 182-pounder was 2-2 at the Class 2A state meet. He lost to the second- and third-place finishers. He finished a match away from the medal stand and enters 2014-15 as a state-title contender.
“Chris just has a great motor,” Nelson said. “He fights in every single position. He made a statement at state and I expect big things from him next year.”
Austin Armstrong, sr., Sycamore
Justin Diddell, sr., Kaneland
Brad Green, jr., DeKalb
Jackson Montgomery, jr., DeKalb
– James Nokes