Boiling Springs lightweight Austin Mahoney is your typical high school kid.
He enjoys playing video games, fishing, hunting and just being outside. He also enjoys spending time with his siblings, and through his older brother, Ryan, he learned about wrestling.
“He started wrestling in kindergarten and would always practice on me at home,” Mahoney said.
It was the typical older brother using the little brother as a punching bag. Mahoney endured the practice and eventually picked up the sport himself, along with football through elementary school. Football didn’t stick, but wrestling did.
Mahoney grappled for the Boiling Springs Bandits and PA Slam, where he first began perfecting his techniques. It led him to high school, where he joined the Bubblers’ wrestling and soccer teams.
Mahoney is light even by a freshman’s standards — he’s weighed in at 94 pounds more than once this season. But don’t let his lack of size fool you.
There was something about Mahoney that got his coaches’ attention, and when fellow 106-pounder Mason Herrera went down with an injury this season, Mahoney was there to step in.
“Having been wrestling for many years, Austin has the skills and experience to be a successful wrestler at the varsity level,” Bubblers head coach Rodney Wright said.
“I’m just a wrestler and when coach calls on me I just go wrestle,” Mahoney said.
So far, Mahoney has held his own with the Bubblers. He compiled a 10-7 record during the regular season heading into Wednesday night’s District 3 Class 2A Wrestling Team Championships quarterfinals against No. 4 Hamburg (19-2) at Upper Dauphin High School at 6.
If the fifth-seeded Bubblers (9-0) win, they’ll face the winner of No. 8 Kennard-Dale (10-4) vs. No. 1 Upper Dauphin (13-0) immediately after the quarterfinal.
The experience he’s gotten on the varsity level could be valuable with the postseason finally here. Despite giving up some pounds to most opponents, Mahoney knows exactly what to do in most situations he’s put in on the mat.
“I think my strengths are my quickness and flexibility, and I feel my weakness is my lack of physical strength, but I’m working on that,” he said. “I take each match as they come.”
Mahoney and his coaches are already planning on getting him to a bigger, more pure 106-pounder, but as for right now, helping his team is the most important thing on his mind.
Wright has been preaching about keeping healthy and injury-free all season, and largely Boiling Springs accomplished that goal. Mental focus has also been a key this year. But for Mahoney individually, Wright gave him some more advice to help him stay focused.
“I need to be confident in myself and not focus on the losses,” Mahoney said about what Wright has told him on numerous occasions. “He always tells me to believe in myself.”
That support from the Bubblers coaching staff and from fellow wrestlers has not slowed down. Mahoney is greatful for all of the support he has had over the years and after stepping into the role left vacant by Herrera.
“Each coach I’ve had has taught me something,” Mahoney said. “I have had a lot of teammates over the years and have made a lot of friendships. Without them I wouldn’t be the wrestler I am now.”
Mahoney will step onto the mat Wednesday in his first postseason match, but he isn’t entirely focused on who that might be. In fact, Mahoney doesn’t really focus on any opponent; he sticks to doing what he does best. He takes each match as they come.
It’s all about the team right now.
“His goal for the off season should be hitting the weight room and growing into a true 106-pounder for next year,” Wright said. “But I will take what I see from him this year. He is doing an awesome job for this team.”
And like a good big brother, he has his own little practice partners to hone his skills with further.
“I like playing around with my little brother and sister,” Mahoney said. “I’m already starting to get my [1-year-old] brother to wrestle.
“He’s already learned the double leg takedown.”