Athlete of Week: Collins, Chiefs keep it in family

Wrestling runs in the family for North Myrtle Beach’s Tanner Collins, and his family has gotten even larger with a newfound togetherness among his Chiefs teammates.

While his oldest brother, Tripp, was one of the founding members of the Chiefs’ first wrestling program in 2001, Tanner has helped take the team to the next level in his senior year. As the third brother to pass through the wrestling program, it’s safe to say Collins has more than done his part to put the Chiefs on the right path.

“I first got into wrestling because of my brothers (Tripp, Travis and Taylor). They used to beat up on me all the time,” joked Collins, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week for helping the Chiefs advance to the Class 4A Lower State semifinals. “They were bigger than me but I wasn’t afraid to wrestle them.”

That fearlessness has carried over from the living room floor to the wrestling mat. Collins won all three of his matches in the state duals at the 145-pound class, including a hard-fought 8-2 decision against Cane Bay. But the Chiefs fell short against the No. 1-ranked Cobras, cutting short what could have been a state title run.

“I was really looking forward to state duals because this is the best teams we’ve had at North Myrtle Beach in a long time,” Collins said. “I really feel like if we could have gotten past Cane Bay we could have gone all the way. Now we’re trying to focus on (the individual state tournament) but even that we do as a team.”

Collins credits second-year head coach Carl Dukes for bringing the team concept to the individual sport of wrestling. Also following in his big brothers’ footsteps in the North Myrtle Beach soccer program, Collins already knew the value of teamwork on the pitch, but he also saw how it can also bring out everyone’s best on the mat.

“We didn’t have any seniors on the team last year, and it was Coach Duke’s first season so we really didn’t reach our full potential,” Collins said of last year’s Chiefs squad. “But this year it was a lot more like a team sport. You need your brothers to help you and cheer you on. Coach Dukes always emphasizes it’s team sport.”

Collins hopes to qualify for the individual state tournament for the second straight year at Saturday’s Lower State championships. After getting a taste of the state tournament last season, he’s ready to close out his wrestling career on top before making the transition to soccer.

“Last year I barely made it and I won one match as a (No.) 4 seed, but this year I know a little more about what to expect,” Collins said. “I know this is my last shot in wrestling and I want to see how far I can go. I love soccer and I’m excited about getting started, but I have a strong competitive drive to do well at states.”

Photo by Louis E. Keiner

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