Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff
Colin Lawler, a senior, displays his signature shamrock socks and green wrestling headgear at Kinkaid High School, 201 Kinkaid School Dr., Thursday, March 22, 2018, in Houston. ( Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle )
Colin Lawler, a senior, displays his signature shamrock socks and…
Kinkaid’s Colin Lawler claimed his third Southwest Preparatory Conference championship, and his first as a heavyweight, last month.
The 6-3, 245-pound grappler was only getting started.
A week later, the senior rolled through his opposition at the National Prep Wrestling Championship in Bethlehem, Penn., en route to the 285-pound title, making him the Houston area’s first prep-school national champion. After pinning all his opponents at the national tourney, including McDonogh’s P.J. Mustipher in the final, Lawler finished the season with a perfect 36-0 record – with 36 wins by pin – and the Chronicle’s All-Greater Houston Boys Wrestler of the Year award.
“He just works hard,” coach Brian Notch said. “He works hard in our room, does outside weight lifting, outside club wrestling, and he’s really good with body awareness, where he’s at on the mat, as far as certain situations.
“He’s very even-keeled, so he doesn’t panic.”
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Q: You moved to Houston from Penfield, N.Y., outside Rochester, the summer after seventh grade. What was that like for you?
A: “It was tough, to be honest. I had a lot of close friends up in New York, and moving all the way across the country was hard, and then both of my dogs died (right after moving), too, which made it that much harder. But I was able to make friends down here and move past it”
Q: You started wrestling at 5 years old How much did that help in your transition to Texas?
A: “It was critical to be sure. All the friends I made were really from wrestling. My best friend right now (Noah Chan) was one of the first kids I met at wrestling practice.”
Q: How different is it wrestling guys here as opposed to New York?
A: “It’s different. In New York, wrestling is like football down here. Wrestling is king up there, so there’s really tough competition, and a lot of the technique is more advanced up there. Kids are more hard-nosed, and there are more kids doing it, because it’s the cool thing to do. In Texas, there are a lot of crazy-good athletes, and there are a lot of really good wrestlers, too, but they’re harder to come across.”
Q: A turf toe injury kept you from competing at the SPC and nationals your sophomore year. How difficult was it to miss those?
A: “It was tough, because I had to deal with it on my own. But it was another opportunity to deal with adversity, and not just in the wrestling room. It was outside the room that I had to deal with it most, and it helped me build up my determination to come back even better, working harder to catch up.”
Q: You placed fourth at 220 at last year’s national tourney. Did this return trip at 285 play out how you envisioned it?
A: “I expected to win, but I didn’t expect to pin my way through the tournament. I just kept moving, and I was faster than everyone else, because I was lighter than everyone else by at least 20 to 30 pounds, and the biggest thing was keeping my position.”
Q: What does it mean to you to be a national champion?
A: “It’s been my dream since I was a 5-year-old kid. I’d always see the names on the wall, at the high school I practiced in, and I would walk over and touch it and read all the names, all the titles, and I wanted that to be me, even as a little kid. I dedicated my life to that.”
Q: Is it more special to be the first from Houston?
A: “I feel like I’m leading the area in turning that corner with wrestling. I’m helping build the sport here, and that means a lot to me, too.”
Q: You made the leap to heavyweight to prepare for wrestling at N.C. State. Why was it important to make that jump now?
A: “At the beginning of the year, I had to get used to how heavyweights wrestle, and so I made a few mistakes, but I was able to come out on top every time, and then I got used to it. It’s really important for my college career because they don’t have a 220 weight class, so if I’m going to be a heavyweight in college, it’s better to come in prepared and used to wrestling heavyweights, than it would be to do better at 220. But I was able to pin everybody this year at heavyweight, so it worked out well.”