TAMPA Jesuit junior Austin Underwood came as close as possible to a spot in the 220-pound class at the state wrestling championships.
Underwood was in a back-and-forth match with the state finals on the line. Trailing 9-8 with time running out, Underwood made his move and scored a takedown to win.
The only problem was that, while his opponent was about to hit the mat, time ran out. Sure, his opponent was in midair, but it didn’t matter as the horn went off.
Underwood said that it was a big deal, but it really wasn’t that big a deal.
“I had him, I threw him down, it was a clean takedown,” Underwood said. “What are you going to do? At least I have one more year at Jesuit.”
Underwood, who is already hearing of scholarship offers from Division I schools, is a force in Tampa Bay wrestling. He posted a 44-2 record this season and recently competed at the NHSCA National Tournament in Virginia Beach, Va. After three days of going up against the best wrestlers in the nation, Underwood finished seventh. It wasn’t his first time in the national spotlight. In the fall, he attended the prestigious Super 32 meet in North Carolina and finished seventh.
Not too shabby for a guy who never wrestled until his freshman year in high school.
“They were wiping up the floor with me when I started,” Underwood said. “Sometime in my sophomore year things turned around. I went to all the camps, I worked hard and it started to pay off. I went from being terrible to having fun with (wrestling) in two years.”
The last-second loss was tough, but Underwood said it won’t detract him from going out in style as a senior.
He works out at the Caveman Gym in Tampa and the work really started to pay off during the junior season. He won the tournament award in Virginia Beach for most pins in the shortest amount of time. Wrestlers at 220 don’t get a lot of pins, but Underwood rolled through the opposition with pins that took 20 seconds, 40 seconds, and then a memorable one when Underwood attacked and pinned his opponent immediately. It was recorded as 12 seconds, but Underwood said the officials didn’t even have time to start the clock.
That opponent was unconscious for 15 minutes before being helped off the mat.
Underwood is the baby of a family, and has two brothers who treated him the way older brothers usually treat the youngest.
“They used to beat me to a pulp,” Underwood said of his brothers, Brandon and Brooks.
Finally it was time to get even. Over the holidays, Brandon bet $50 that Austin couldn’t hold him down for two minutes. They settled it on the rug.
“He never got off his belly,” Austin laughed. “And I never got my $50.”