Winning third place at the Carnahan Invitational is a reason for a lot of wrestlers to celebrate. The Crown Point, Indiana, wrestling tournament has become one of the more respected high school events in the Great Lakes region in recent years.
Homewood-Flossmoor’s Jaydon Robinson wasn’t happy with that Dec. 17 finish, though. He sat in the back of the gym during the finals with a towel over his head, sulking. Earlier in the day, he lost in the 145-pound semifinals 3-2, giving up an escape in the ultimate tie-breaker round to Wyatt Duchateau of Wisconsin’s Arrowhead Union High School.
“This gave me motivation to keep working harder,” Robinson said. “When I get home, instead of laying down in bed like everybody else, I’m putting back on my shoes and getting straight to work.”
He won the third-place match after the semifinals, beating Crown Point’s Anthony Bahl, but it wasn’t enough to dull the pain.
“Usually, (Robinson) handles losses better than most of our kids,” coach Jim Sokoloski said. “I think he felt a little disrespected and he really wanted to win that one (in the semifinals) to prove he was better than what they seeded him. He just didn’t do a whole lot that match. We told him you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself when you’re not offensive and you don’t score points. It’s on you.”
Robinson was equally disappointed after the Walsh Ironman in Ohio the week before, where he lost in the round of 16 of that even-bigger national tournament. Sokoloski said he handled that loss with grace and composure. It was the combination of it and the failure in Crown Point that put him into a funk.
His record sits at 14-3 on Dec. 19.
“I wouldn’t say I’m getting better (because of the losses). I feel like I’m still the same JJ,” Robinson said.
Those setbacks do mark a mental turning point for Robinson, he said. The time spent with teammates and friends between matches, taking focus way from the mat, has been detrimental. It’s something he expects to change going forward.
“I’m having too much fun,” he said. “When I’m around just my dad (H-F assistant coach Vasil Robinson) I feel like I wrestle like a different person, like I know I can wrestle. Now I know when I come to a tournament like (the Carnahan), I should just stay away from everybody.”
Sokoloski said Robinson has made a habit of coming up one win short of where he wants to be in the national tournaments. Some of that is a comfort level he’s developed with letting a match remain close late, often going into overtime, and then taking a shot to win at the end. He the move doesn’t land, it’s too late to recover.
Work ethic, stamina and ability are never an issue, Sokoloski said. Robinson even gives the adult coaches in the Vikings wrestling room a hard time during practices. He just needs to trust himself to take the next step.
“He wants to bust down the door and put his name out there,” Sokoloski said. “A lot of times you’ve got to fail to learn. He wants to be too strategic sometimes instead of just letting his God-given talent take over with the work he’s put in.”
The season is moving toward the state series. Last year, he was a third-place finisher at 145 pounds in the Class 3A state finals. He’s ranked No. 3 in the state right now but that doesn’t mean a repeat performance is enough for Robinson or his coaches.
“Be more focused and win a state title, that’s my straight goal,” Robinson said. “Don’t mess around. I’ve been making bad decisions, having too much fun. I’ve learned the lesson for today. I’ll keep grinding and working hard.”