By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Editor
Wrestling wasn’t exactly Don Hollingshead’s first choice.
“I didn’t make the basketball team in eighth grade, so I tried something else,” he said. “I tried wrestling and I decided it was what I was going to be good at.”
It has definitely worked out for him.
Hollingshead, a state qualifier for Joplin this season, signed on Thursday to wrestle at the University of Central Missouri.
“I kept thinking something bad was going to happen all day, like no one would have a pen or something,” he said. “But it is definitely exciting to be able to finally write down where I’m going to be going.”
Hollingshead went 34-12 and was a state qualifier at 152 pounds for Joplin this season. Last summer he placed third at the Missouri Greco-Roman state championships, qualifying for the team that went to nationals in Fargo, N.D.
Helping coach that team was Justin Ensign, head coach at Central Missouri.
“I got to sit with him between practices and eat meals with him and kind of get to know him and talk to him about wrestling and anything, really,” Hollingshead said. “I got comfortable enough to say this is where I’m going to spend the next four years.
“It’s a great program and a good fit for me. It’s not too far from home, but it’s far enough where I can live and have that college feeling.”
It was during that tournament in North Dakota that Hollingshead — who says he may study to be a dietitian — realized he could compete at a collegiate level.
“I qualified for the Missouri national team and got to go to North Dakota and wrestle against some of the best guys in the nation,” he said. “I decided I was doing pretty well if I could hang with those guys.”
Joplin coach David Myers said Hollingshead has the right traits to have a successful college career.
“His work ethic is amazing, and that’s really what it takes to be a good wrestler. You have to be prepared during the season and during the offseason,” Myers said. “I had to kick him out of the wrestling room at times, because he was working too much. And that’s what it takes in college. As long as he has that work ethic and the ability to learn, the sky is the limit for him.”