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No Sophomore Slump

Williamstown’s Taylor Robinson made an impression as a freshman and he’s ready to put a bow on a breakout sophomore season by making a run in wrestling’s individual postseason in the next month.

Taylor Robinson anticipates a district championship, region championship and a podium finish at the state tournament on the heels of a breakout 30–3 sophomore season. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III, THE SUN)

When you’re a freshman at a Group 5 school on a team that’s on its way to 24–3 season, it’s probably not too surprising when you’re stuck on the junior varsity roster, waiting your turn. The important thing is making an impression when your name does get called.

This pretty much sums up Taylor Robinson’s ninth-grade wrestling season, one that helped propel him to a breakout sophomore season.

For Robinson, opportunity came knocking 13 months ago, when the wrestling season was almost two months old in a late-January quad meet match against Cherokee.

After losing two of the first three matches, Braves head coach John Jernegan decided to send out his talented freshman at 120 pounds, bumping senior Shamun Smith to the 126-pound bout. Cherokee countered with Colin Rickramaratna, a senior who would go on to place third in the states two months later.

Robinson lost the match, but he also avoided both a pin and a major decision, which helped Williamstown beat Cherokee. And that wasn’t all.

“Taylor had the kid on his back, a kid that finished third in the states,” Jernegan said. “We knew he was going to be good for us then.”

For a kid who had a hard time cracking the lineup 14 months ago — Williamstown had seniors Smith and Nick DeRosa in his weight classes for most of last season — Robinson had his wrestling career off to a remarkable start less than halfway through his high school career. He enters the District 32 Tournament (at Williamstown on Feb. 15–16) just one win away his 50th career victory, and thus, on pace to eclipse the 100-win plateau before his 2021 graduation.

Robinson was an impressive 30–3 this season heading into the beginning of the high school wrestling individual postseason.

“And I feel like I shouldn’t have lost some of those matches,” said Robinson, who also plays cornerback on Williamstown’s football team. “Like I lost a match 1–0 because I let the kid up, and I shouldn’t have done that. … I feel like I can win districts and regions and place at states. That’s my goal.”

(Anthony J. Mazziotti III, THE SUN)

But those are goals simply for 2019. The way his high school career is playing out, Robinson could accomplish much more, too, while eyeing up the ultimate goal, securing a Division-I scholarship in the next two years.

It’d be quite an accomplishment for a kid who only decided to wrestle less than 10 years ago — as a 6 year old with the Monroe Braves — because his dad thought it’d help him in football.

“I coached midget football for so long, and a lot of the parents told me he should try out for wrestling because it’s good for football,” Harold Robinson, a former soccer, baseball, and track athlete at Deptford High School, said of his son. “So we actually did it to train for football. … But then he just got better and better and we went to a couple of different tournaments, did that whole thing, got into the midget program. He had some success, he wasn’t always good, he’d win his fair share and he’d lose some, too, but I could see him getting confident as he got older.”

As a freshman, Robinson was bumped up to a tough 132-pound field for the postseason and managed to take third place in districts. The goal, of course, is to find a higher spot on the podium this winter and build off that in his next two seasons, too.

“I think the sky is the limit, with his athleticism, his strength,” said Jernegan, an alum of Williamstown, a school with one state champion in program history. “If he adds more technique I think the sky is the limit for him. … He buys into wrestling, he talks about going to camps this summer, so he’s focusing on wrestling and on getting better.”

The path to improvement begins with each next match, whether it’s making a mark at regions or helping his team by holding his own against a state placewinner as a freshman.

“I think his poise is probably his best (asset),” Jernegan said. “He doesn’t get rattled.”

(Anthony J. Mazziotti III, THE SUN)
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