02/11/04 — Saints' Robinson eyes state title

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Saints' Robinson eyes state title

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 11, 2004 2:00 PM

DUDLEY -- One by one his senior teammates walked to center mat as Southern Wayne head wrestling coach David Lee introduced them, and listed their career accomplishments.

Then it was Paul Robinson's turn.

As Lee spoke Robinson's name, the heavyweight took his hands out of his sweatshirt pocket and blew kisses to the small crowd in attendance. The dramatic act drew laughter and put a big smile on Lee's face.

"That's just Paul," Lee said.

But don't let Robinson, who has the demeanor of a teddy bear, fool you. He's all business once he shakes hands with an opponent and the whistle blows to start the match.

"Paul is dramatic," Lee said. "Sometimes we have to calm him down before a match because he's so pumped up. He always gets real intense. I'm really not sure why."

Lee wouldn't have used intensity and dramatic to describe Robinson after his freshman season or during part of his sophomore year. Robinson had difficulty executing on the mat and didn't experience much success.

Coach Anthony Lofton, along with former Saints coach Nick Smith, took Robinson aside for some one-on-one instruction during most practices.

"It was really 'old-school' wrestling because that's what Coach Lofton knows -- the basics, standing up, moves on bottom and top," Lee said. "Paul came a long way in a short period of time. He got dominated his freshman year, but midway through his sophomore year he began to win more than he lost.

"A lot of those wins came against quality people."

Robinson continued to gain knowledge and aptly applied it when he stepped onto the mat. Again, wins became more frequent than losses and a preseason goal turned into reality in mid-February. Robinson qualified for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A wrestling championships and finished fourth overall.

He lost in the semifinal round, but vowed he'd improve upon that position this season.

"I've noticed a difference in his maturity level," Lee said. "His drive is equal to last year, and he had a lot he wanted to prove to himself and his coaches. He really wants to win every match and thinks about them weeks ahead of time.

"Every now and then you have to steer him on the right track, but you have to do that with any wrestler."

The biggest factor that helps Robinson on the mat is his strength. Nine times out of 10, he is stronger than his opponent and usually scores the initial takedown. If an opponent falls onto his back, Robinson's surprising quickness surfaces and he tries to roll them over.

Sometimes, but not often, Robinson relies on technique to eventually get the pin or a decision in regulation.

His intensity shows every match, but it jumps up a notch when he sees his teammates not performing up to their standards. And when an opposing team makes a run, that just makes Robinson a little more fierce when his turn comes to wrestle.

"We tell him to wrestle a smart match and be aggressive when you need to," Lee said. "If he would just listen a little more, but sometimes the intensity gets in the way of that. You can never fault his effort on the mat because he's always going to try.

"He takes things really a lot more seriously than other kids. That speaks a lot for his level of dedication to wrestling and what he has achieved as a wrestler."

Robinson notched his 100th win during mid-December. He grabbed gold medals in the Eagle Invitational and the highly-competitive Cary News Invitational. He took second at the Falcon Invitational, Swiss Bear in New Bern and the Eastern Carolina Conference tournament.

He has 113 career wins to his credit, but wants to add a few more on the regional and state level.

"As far as being a student of the game, he's probably one of the most knowledgable people -- not only technical wrestling, but the sport itself," Lee said. "He never forgets who he lost to, how he lost or who he beat.

"He's very dedicated to the sport."

Note: This is the third feature in a week-long series profiling some of the area's top wrestlers as they prepare for the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern individual regional championships. Thursday's feature is on C.B. Aycock's underclassman tandem of Jackson Massey and Ronald Lynn.