Athlete of the Week: Tyrelle Robinson soaring in final wrestling season with Hawks

Tyrelle Robinson

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline High School wrestling coach Matt Keel tells his team often that improvement in the sport doesn’t occur in small increments. Those who devote the necessary work to wrestling, he says, experience growth on the mat in “bumps.” Hawks senior Tyrelle Robinson can attest to that school of thought.

Robinson’s rise in his final high school season has been particularly prominent. As a junior a season ago – his first as a regular contributor in Skyline’s lineup – he recorded just 16 wins. This season he’s had 42 victories and has claimed a conference and regional championship over the last two weeks.

Keel points to a number of factors that have contributed to Robinson’s emergence. The senior has dedicated himself to the process inside and outside the wrestling room, and to managing his weight properly. He’s reworked his inner circle of friends and his support structure, following the “winners surround themselves with winners” line of thinking. He’s become stronger in his faith.

At the center of all those steps taken to become successful on the wrestling mat, Robinson said Tuesday afternoon, was a simple motivator – “I didn’t wanna suck anymore,” he said.

“It wasn’t really peer pressure but my two best friends, the two other captains (fellow seniors Curt Boswell and Brandon Doffermire), one of them got fifth at regions last year and the other one got sixth at state,” Robinson said. “I didn’t get anything and I kind of, I wanted to be up there with them. And being a senior, I knew I had to pick the pace up a little bit.”

Robinson, who didn’t start wrestling until he reached high school, has suddenly emerged as the Hawks’ most consistent grappler. He won the 152-pound championship in the Conference 28 tournament on Feb. 4, the first postseason title for a Hawk in two years, and followed that with a Region 3A East title last Saturday.

Robinson, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for Feb. 6-12, went 4-0 in the 152-pound regional bracket at New Kent High School last weekend, a performance that included victories over Colton Hoynoski (Warren County), Yuri Smaltz (Brentsville) and Bryan Talavera (Manassas Park), three fellow Conference 28 competitors.

“It wasn’t a very big transition, I guess, from conference to regions because we had a pretty tough conference. I wrestled some of the same kids. They knew my stuff so it was a little bit harder,” Robinson said. “I felt a little bit of the pressure because you can go two-and-out of that tournament and not go to states.”

Robinson’s march through the two-day tournament began with a 14-1 win over Hoynoski in the opening round, which he followed with a 24-second pin of Colonial Heights’ Tristan Echols in the quarterfinals.

He hit some adversity in day two when, in the 152-pound semifinal match, he was penalized twice for stalling and found himself trailing Smaltz at one point before he rallied for a 9-5 win.

The victory sent Robinson into the 152-pound championship final against Talavera, whom Robinson had outlasted in the tiebreaker rounds for the Conference 28 title a week earlier. Robinson said the familiarity between the two wrestlers provided an obstacle for the Skyline senior early in the regional final.

“Already wrestling me three times, he pretty much knew my stuff and he timed my lead step. And he took me down twice in the first period and when we went into the second period I was losing by 3 points, so I was pretty nervous because he came out with a game plan and he was executing it pretty well,” Robinson said.

“Then we went in the third, I was losing (4-3) and I got a takedown with about a minute and 20 (seconds) left. When the whistle blew after the takedown he tried to roll when I was throwing my leg in because he knew that I rode legs and if I got them in he was screwed.”

Robinson, who at that point led Talavera 5-4, said he scrambled to counter Talavera’s roll and hit a “nice throw” that in the moment generated roar of approval from the crowd and drew a rave review from Keel on Tuesday.

“Oh my gosh, that place – when you hit a throw in finals and you’re only wining by a point the whole place just goes, ‘Whoa!’ It was one of those,” Keel said. “He landed flat, there was no rolling and the guy had nowhere to go. It was pretty epic.”

Robinson won the match 8-4, placing him atop the 152-pound classification for the second straight week.

“It was a little bit unreal,” Robinson said, “just the transition from last year to this year because we’ve had some amazing wrestlers here at Skyline and they didn’t win a regional title.”

Robinson has now turned his sights to the Virginia High School League Group 3A state tournament, which began on Thursday in Salem and will run through Saturday afternoon. He said his goal is to place in the top four in what will be his first and only VHSL state tournament experience.

“It’s a big confidence booster,” Robinson said of winning a regional title. “I just feel like time’s ticking and if I wanna place (at the state tournament) this is my last year to do it.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com