Don't get Nick Collins wrong.
He would have loved to have been that phenom wrestler coming into the Augusta program as a freshman with countless youth accolades, ready for the bigger stage of high school and more gaudy accomplishments.
But that just wasn't the case for the senior and admittedly, he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Collins has taken the long route, making incremental progress from his freshman season, where he was barely above .500, to now where he is ranked second at 145 pounds and is a favorite to win at the Class 4A tournament in Salina.
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"I feel like I have an advantage over the wrestlers who have been stars all their careers," Collins said. "I think I have earned where I am in my career. I have worked hard to get where I'm at now and I appreciate that."
Confidence was always a shaky issue for Collins as a freshman. It probably didn't help that he was a scrawny 130-pound kid, going up against more seasoned and chiseled wrestlers in the 140 class.
Still, Collins went 18-15 and qualified for state, where he lost his two matches.
"When I was a freshman, I was always nervous and jittery before matches," Collins said. "It wore me out and I almost quit. In fact, the coaches had to talk me out of it. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't quit."
As a sophomore, Collins went 23-11 and again qualified for state, going 2-2.
The most crucial offseason for Collins was after his sophomore year, where he put on 15 pounds and moved up to 145. The next season, Collins became one of 4A's elite, vaulting his record to 36-4 and a fourth-place state finish.
"Nick has a great motor and is in great shape," Augusta coach Brandon Terry said. "After he gained some muscle and went to 145, his confidence improved tremendously. He now expects to win."
Collins is 24-5 this season and three of his five losses were to Alex Bontz of Andover Central, who is the top-ranked wrestler in 5A. Another loss came from Andale's Levi Eck, who has battled back and forth with Collins for the top spot in the rankings.
Collins and Eck are on opposite sides of this weekend's bracket, which means they could meet in the final.
"If I want to win, I can't make little mistakes in big matches," Collins said. "I think if I can score first and score last, then I have a chance."