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Be Done When You’re Ready



View clip of Akin at ISU View clip of Akin at U.S. Nationals View clip of Akin scoring on a trapped-arm gut Looking back Eric Akin has learned a lot from his father, John. He introduced him to the sport of wrestling, telling him it was a sport about courage and determination. He spoke of the history of wrestling legends like Dan Hodge on a regular basis. But through the prodding and pushing and the drive to achieve more, Akin's father took the time to tell him one very important thing, "You can be done any time you want." The statement of support from a father to a son must have been difficult to stifle at times for Eric Akin. Surely the words "you can be done any time you want" filtered into his mind each time he came tantalizingly close to fulfilling a dream, but in the end just short. Like last summer when he finished second in the Olympic Trials, like he had done in 1996. Akin has had a storied career as a wrestler; but he hasn't gone to where he wants to be just yet. Akin is still seeking to win a World Championship medal. To represent the United States on a World Team a wrestler has to win two out of three bouts at the World Team Trials. The National Champion gets the privilege of bypassing the Challenge Tournament and waiting to see who will be his opponent for the two out of three bout series. Akin knows what it is like to be the wrestler coming out of the Challenge Tournament; he's won four out of the last five at the 54 kg weight class. "I don't know if another American has ever won four at all." To Akin his victories escaping the Challenge Tournament are obviously both a source of pride and discomfort. The ultimate goal is to make the World Team and medal, pride in being the best in the Challenge Tournament doesn't serve as much consolation. This year Akin has his best shot ever of reaching the World Team and wrestling in the World Championships in New York City this September. Through dedication and maturity and the ability to deal with the close call and not be done, Akin finally achieved another long time goal this past spring. In April, in Las Vegas Akin rose above his competition and earned his first National Title at the Senior level. Akin has been attending the U.S. Open since its early days when it was held in the Show Boat Hotel in a ball room with a 10-foot ceiling and about 40 fans in attendance. The U.S. Open has changed in size with it now being held at the MGM Grand Arena with 20 mats running simultaneously. "Winning the U.S. Open was a goal since day one, I feel like I finished the national title chapter of my wrestling story." Akin's senior title is his 7th USA Wrestling National Title. He has earned a title at every age level, cadet Greco:2, cadet freestyle: 1, junior freestyle: 1, university freestyle: 2, and now senior freestyle: 1. Even with the success of completing his National Title puzzle, Akin said, "I didn't throw a party or anything. It's just another day of business." Akin's words obviously ring with the urge to reach the next goal of earning the World Team berth in June at the World Team Trials in Cincinnati. Akin's weight class in Vegas was missing a few of the United States' more accomplished wrestlers. Names like Abas, Moore, Mena, and Henson were not in the bracket in April. Of course, now Akin has the advantage of only facing the winner of the Challenge Tournament. Terry Brands, now a training partner of Akin's at the University of Nebraska, points to that reality, "Eric will have to be ready come June, there are at least four guys that are capable of knocking him off, so he better be ready to dominate." Akin seems to have a renewed vigor to his desire to make the World Team. By his own omission while living in the Kansas City area for the past three years Akin wrestled very little and basically just trained in health clubs. "It was kind of comical to me that I was still #1 or #2 each year." Moving to Lincoln and training with the Huskers has helped move Akin forward, especially now that he has Terry Brands as a training partner. Brands, who will take the 2001 season off, is viewed by Akin as a mentor despite their close age. "I have always looked to the Brands brothers for motivation and inspiration, back when I first knew who they were when I was in 7th grade and they were in 9th grade. They are the most intense individuals and they channel it in the most positive ways." In Akin's eyes there is nobody in the world who is better at fundamentals, basics, and implementing raw hard work than Terry and Tom Brands. Akin believes the best piece of advice that he has received from Terry Brands is that 'You have to represent yourself.' When asked what that means Terry Brands takes a wide and philosophical view of the world. "There are so many people out there today, that the last thing they want to do is be accountable for their own actions. Be accountable for themselves. In our world there are so many people that get hung up on the wrong things, stuff like chasing material wealth, or having too much fun in the wrong ways. In all segments of our society we need people that will 'represent themselves.' It's as simple as that." Akin speaks of many more people that have influenced him in his quest for glory in wrestling. His mother and father, Kevin Jackson, Dan Gable, and Dave and Nancy Shultz all have had a heavy influence on his desire to not be done with competing. "What I've learned from these people in wrestling will be useful to me the rest of my life." The World Team Trials are drawing near and Akin is heavily involved in his training for this all-important competition. "At this point, I'm just trying to minimize the pressure, because I know that pressure eliminates most of the competition anyhow. The top two or three guys who handle it the right way end up battling it out. The other seven or eight watch from the stands." To Akin the World Trials will be one of the top five toughest tournaments in the world. In his mind it doesn't matter who wins the Challenge Tournament. A lot happens in a tournament of this magnitude, someone could not make weight, someone could get injured, and of course someone will make his own luck. "I know a few things about whoever I will face on the last day of the Trials in June", Akin says, "Whoever, comes out of the Challenge Tourney will be on a roll, and he is also going to be as tired as a zombie, and it will be nothing less than a series for the World Title." Most wrestling fans expect former World Champion and last summer's Olympic Silver Medalist, Sammie Henson to petition into the Trials. If he does, he will undoubtedly be a favorite to battle through the Challenge Tournament. Akin and Henson have long been nemesis through many tournaments. Last summer, Akin lost to Henson in two hard fought matches at the Olympic Trials in Dallas. If Akin does face Henson nothing less than an all out war will be expected. "We respect each other; we've told each other that. Sammie wants to win just as badly as I do. He won't quit; I won't quit. We both thrive on making other people quit. So, when we battle there is a real test of toughness on the line…I respect him a lot for that." Through years of wrestling, dealing with triumph and disappointment Eric Akin has come close to his ultimate goal. Surely, he's counting the days to the Trials to face the challenger in Cincinnati. His dream of making the World Team for a shot at a World Medal is just two victories away. The years of perseverance in the challenging sport of wrestling has left a deep impression on Akin's character. According to Akin, "Wrestling is a sport that reaches down into your very soul and reveals your strengths and weaknesses to the world. It teaches you to deal with adversity, bounce back up when you hit bottom, and how to put your sights on a goal and work for it until the feat is accomplished." Akin has resisted the words of his father through disappointments that sta
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