Athlete of the week: Austin May, Zimmerman, wrestling: Making it happen

by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor

Austin May was a wrestler with 53 career losses two months ago when something convinced him he should aim for a high state finish, maybe even a championship. The Zimmerman junior upset No. 2-ranked Tyler Midas of Foley 7-1 in a dual meet Jan. 10, his first signature win.

“After I beat him, I built a lot of confidence,” May said. “I knew the work I was doing in the wrestling room and weight room would pay off, and thankfully, it did.”

May emerged as state Class AA 182-pound champion last Saturday evening. “I was ready to wrestle and did what I wanted to do and made my dream come true,” he beamed, referring to strategies he and the coaches devised.

Austin May pumped his fist after winning the 182-pound state championship match at the Xcel Center. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
Austin May pumped his fist after winning the 182-pound state championship match at the Xcel Center. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

May has lettered since seventh grade but, big for his age and facing older kids, he was 24-46 through ninth grade. He went 27-12 in 10th, then busted loose this year at 37-7 with 18 pins. He’s 88-57 overall.

Coach Pat Burch, asked what makes May a champion, said, “Obviously, the God-given talent he’s got, the build of his body, great hips, a low center of gravity and powerful legs.  He uses those things well.”Plus, May’s mental toughness is “awesome,” said the coach, noting that May injured his shoulder in the quarterfinals and was hurting the rest of the tournament. “He was sore but he fought through it. He got the adrenaline going. That is mental toughness,” Burch said.

May lost to Midas 4-2 in the section finals, both advancing to state, where Midas placed fourth. At state, May pulled out three close wins, then showed splendid composure and confidence in the finals when he beat Simley’s Trom Peterson 8-4.

May got help from ZHS’s other state champion, Zac Nielsen (2005 and 2007), who is still competing.

“Zac came in just before sections and spent two and a half hours with me and taught me a lot of technical stuff,” May said. “It was awesome …  I really listened to what he said and took it to heart.”

May also thanked coaches Burch,  Aaron Fair and Mark Hayes for key scouting reports and fine-tuning.

He had lost in January to Orono’s Jackson Striggow, his state semifinal foe. On film, the coaches scrutinized the takedown move that beat May earlier. “They worked one-on-one with me on protecting that outside single and defending it,” said May, who countered the thrust by Striggow in overtime for the winning takedown.

Finals rival  Peterson, was scouted throughout the tournament. “Thankfully Coach Burch and the other coaches took good notes on him,” May said.  Advised to be wary of an under-hook move, led with the left foot, May was able to counter it in the opening seconds for a devastating single-leg takedown that set the tone for the match, which May won with three takedowns.

May also plays football. Last fall, he rushed for 575 yards and six touchdowns at fullback, and made 69 tackles at middle linebacker, on a 2-6 team. His highlight was a 207-yard, three-touchdown game in a 26-21 win over Little Falls.

“I’ve always thought I could be a college football player,” said May. “Now, I know wrestling is a something I can pursue, too.”


Austin May
Austin May

Personal file — Age: 16 … Family: parents Bryan and Terri; sisters Moriah and Ilea … Sports: football, wrestling … Other activities: Impact (leadership group) … Academics: 3.2 GPA … Possible occupational goals: sports medicine, teaching, law enforcement

Favorite stuff — Class: math, history … TV shows: sports, “Friday Night Lights,” “Family Guy” … Movie: “Saving Private Ryan” …. Food: venison, cookies, McDonald’s and Buffalo Wild Wings fare … Drink: orange juice, Propel … Teams: Vikings, Wild, Gopher wrestlers, Michigan State football … Athletes: Zac Nielsen, Dan Gable … Kickback activities: hunting, fishing … Wants to visit: Alaska