ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Losing the match that would have qualified him for the state wrestling tournament last season may have been the best thing to happen to Andrew Bina.
At least for this, his senior year.
“I just didn’t wrestle well,” Bina said, still smarting from the memory. “That’s kind of been my fuel this season because I was really quite upset.
“I just didn’t wrestle that kid,” he added. “I thought I was better than him, but I didn’t outwork him. That’s something I’ve been working to do this year-outwork everyone I wrestle on the mat.”
Bina has pretty much done that this season, and it’s moved him to another level of success. Coming off a solid 25-15 season last year, Bina finished this regular season with a stellar 30-1 record at 152 pounds.
More important to him, this past weekend Bina qualified for state with a second-place finish at regionals with a 3-1 performance.
Bina has done it the old-fashioned way: he’s earned his success with an absolute commitment to work hard.
“During the off season, while everyone else was playing football or whatever, I was drilling 60 takedowns a night, every night, for about four months,” he said. “By mid-July, I was working to get better. I knew I had a lot of people to get better than to make it to state and do well.”
Coach Scott O’Hare credits the combination of additional mat experience and a strong work ethic to Bina’s improvement this season.
“This year, he has certainly taken on a great attention to detail,” O’Hare said. “He works really hard to drill all the little things right. That way, when things happen in a match, he’s a little more prepared for it and he’s getting some better opportunities to score.”
Strenuous workouts in practice haven’t satisfied Bina’s drive to outwork his opponents, according to O’Hare.
“Every day, he has me put five minutes on the clock, and he does five minutes of what we call shadow wrestling, which is basically wrestling without a partner,” O’Hare said. “It’s a visualization of the moves. He’s been pushing himself very hard.”
A little sibling rivalry hasn’t hurt Bina’s determination either. Brothers Chuck and James also wrestled for HHS and Andrew has had his eye on the records James set for for wins (35) and takedowns (77) in a season.
“In the workout room there’s framed pictures (of HHS record holders and their marks),” he said. “I’ve been working to take my brother off that wall.”
He’s getting close. He’ll need two wins and one takedown at Hays this weekend to tie James’s marks. Andrew already has set the school record for reversals in a season with 40 and is two falls off the record of 23 for a season held by Ronnie Davis.
Bina followed his older brothers’ footsteps by getting involved in wrestling when he was young (7)-but also by quitting the sport a few years later.
Andrew returned to wrestling in middle school, but regrets the competitive experience he lost by sitting out.
“A lot of wrestling is you just feel something, and then you do it,” he said. “The only way to get that feel is to wrestle. That’s what makes me upset about quitting when I was younger.”
The mental aspect of wrestling is the toughest component of a demanding sport, Bina said.
“Some days in practice, you’re not wrestling well and it’s like there’s no way I’m going to be any good at this,” he said. “But you have to go through those days and tell yourself you love the sport and just keep wrestling.”
Physical conditioning is no small challenge either.
“Halfway through (a typical workout) you’re like, why am I in this room? What is wrong with me?” Bina said.
“But at the end, when you’re standing on the medals podium, it’s like that’s exactly why I’m busting my butt.”
Bina said his goal from the start of his senior year has been not only to make it to state, but to win a medal there.
If he accomplishes that, he’ll be only the second athlete in HHS history to do so.
If that doesn’t happen, Bina said his wrestling career has earned him rewards he’ll carry with him well beyond high school.
“It makes everything else easier in life,” he said. “Once you’ve wrestled, that’s about as hard as it gets. You can probably handle just about everything else.”