He is currently the top wrestler in Wyoming and is arguably one of the best in the history of Wyoming. But you’d never know it by talking to him.
Humble and somewhat shy, Lovell senior Dino Collins is the only wrestler in Wyoming to go undefeated for two straight seasons, winning the title a year ago with a 33-0 record, then racking up a 39-0 record this year, winning the 182-pound title each year. That’s 72-0 over the last two years. He also went 31-15 as a freshman, placing fourth at 152 pounds, and 27-14 as a sophomore, placing fourth at 171, giving him a four-year record of 130-29.
And not only has Collins been undefeated for two years, he won the all-class, best-of-the-best Ron Thon Memorial Tournament each season and received the outstanding wrestler award for the upper weights each time. At State this year he won all four matches by a pin and three of the four in the first period.
Collins said he has been wrestling since he was 6 years old, starting with the USA Wrestling program and learning from uncles like Toby and Nathan Collins and Grandpa Glynn Collins. He excelled in middle school under coaches Stan Hedges, Tim Jones, Jerry Anderson and James Habeck and in high school under coaches Dane Mickelson and Daniel Robertson.
“I just tried to do my best and work hard,” Collins said when asked about his success. “It’s a lot of hard work and working with my teammates and having good people to work with in the wrestling room and coaches who take the time to teach me.
“I definitely think that a coach can teach you good things. Coach (Jacob) Bassett and Coach Robertson have taught me a lot of great stuff.”
Asked about the legacy he will leave as he moves on, Collins gave a rather embarrassed smile and said, “Just hard work. It takes a lot of time and commitment and being open to new things and new ways of doing things.”
Asked to name the highlight of his career, Collins said it would have to be this year’s Ron Thon, when undefeated Cheyenne East wrestler Tevis Bartlett moved down a weight class to challenge Collins and Collins pinned him for the title.
“That felt pretty good,” he said. “I knew that hard work and effort pays off, overcoming one of the most difficult things I’ve faced.”
The Collins style
Robertson said Collins has excelled in the style of wrestling that he coaches: being aggressive, taking a lot of shots and running a motion-oriented offense.
“Dino is passive aggressive,” Robertson said. “He doesn’t always have to be on offense, and he doesn’t always have to be on defense. Not like (Jacob) Beck. He’s best when he’s always going, and Nathan (Grant) is the same way, whereas Jaccob (Mickelson) has to be patient.
“Dino can do both. If he wrestles a guy who’s defensive, he can out-defense him and wait for opportunities. He’s never out of position on defense. He only gave up two or three takedowns this year.
“But he can just turn the offense on as long as there’s an opening. If a guy is defensive, Dino can just chase him down until he’s caught.”
And now that Collins has survived two undefeated seasons, the pressure is off a bit, but it’s the kind of pressure that will take him far in life, the pressure that comes from within.
“I felt pressure this year but not pressure from family, coaches and teammates. I put pressure on myself,” he said. “I wanted to accomplish my goal and finish it the right way. I just want to do the best job that I can and just grow and improve.”
Willing to learn
Robertson said Collins is a special wrestler, a special athlete and a special person.
“He’s incredibly humble,” the coach said, “and that’s half of what makes him special. He knows how good he is but he’ll never let anyone know that, he cares that much. He loves to win. He despises losing. He had plenty of opportunities the last couple of years, but he can’t stand to lose. He’s incredibly competitive.”
Robertson said Collins is both humble and coachable, which makes him great to work with and helps him learn.
“You can be coachable and not humble,” he said. “Dino applies what he learns. He’s brave enough to try what he learns in a high-pressure situation. He doesn’t have to wait until it’s a sure thing to give it a try.”
Asked about his favorite sport, Collins said football, though wrestling is a close second. He said he has talked to coaches at Northwest College, Western Wyoming Community College and Dickson State about wrestling in college but has also considered walking on for football at either Wyoming or BYU.
First, however, he will serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then decide where his athletic career will take him.
Whatever Collins does, he will succeed because he is such a well-rounded student and person, Robertson said.
“He’s diversified,” Robertson said. “He’s an Eagle Scout. He’s the salutatorian. He does a lot of different things. Sometimes kids think they’ll be better if they focus on one thing and forsake others, but that’s not what makes our kids the best. Being well-rounded is so vital.”
Returning to the theme of hard work, Robertson marveled at how Collins applies himself.
“His work ethic is stupendous,” he said. “He values the time that he’s spending. He does everything he can every second in practice. He values every second. He doesn’t have to spend extra time because he doesn’t waste time.”
And that is what makes Dino Collins the best wrestler in Wyoming.
Just don’t ask him about it. He’ll just smile.
By David Peck