Williamsburg junior Austin Blythe is big, strong and athletic, but being so talented has created a dilemma for the 6-foot-3, 280-pound prep standout.
Blythe, the class 2A state heavyweight champion in February and a two-time state finalist, was offered a scholarship to play football for the University of Iowa. Williamsburg wrestling coach and assistant varsity football coach Grant Eckenrod confirmed Blythe’s offer today.
Eckenrod said the 16-year-old will take his time making a decision on where to continue his athletic career and hich sport, or sports, he will play.
“We’ve talked a lot about it,” Eckenrod said. “He is going to have a lot of opportunities in both.
“Right now, he goes back and forth. He’s not leaning either way.”
As successful as Blythe is on the field, Eckenrod said Blythe remains a “well-grounded” and “humble kid,” who will make the right decision. Eckenrod has been in his corner while Blythe performed on the mat and on the sideline when he competed on the gridiron. He said Blythe can be successful in either wrestling or football, and that he’s putting in the time to excel in both. Blythe is training for Junior National Wrestling Championships in Fargo, N.D. and Junior National Duals in Oklahoma, as well as attending an Iowa Hawkeye football camp this week.
“I’d hate to say,” Eckenrod said about his opinion on Blythe’s best sport to avoid added pressure. “I honestly can say he’d be able to dominate in both.
“He’s working his tail off. He’s doing what he needs to do to improve in both.”
Blythe’s exploits on the mat are impressive. He was a national runner-up in Greco-Roman and placed fifth nationally in freestyle last year. He’s believed to be the first freshman heavyweight to reach the state finals and won his state title with a first-period fall over West Liberty’s Javier Rendon. He has a career record of 86-7.
“Both” is a strong possibility for Blythe. Even though he’ll have until February 2011 to finalize his decision, Blythe has entertained the daunting task of playing football and wrestling at a Division I level. Currently, his older brother, Holden, a 215-pound state champion in 2008, plays football for Central College in Pella. Holden and Austin have been working out together this summer, and Holden plans to participate in both sports for the 2009-10 school year. The pedigree is there.
Many people, including Blythe and Eckenrod, recall the success former Hawkeye Mark Sindlinger had as a football player and heavyweight wrestler.
“That’s what we’ve talked about is him,” Eckenrod said of Sindlinger. “(Austin) asked if he could do both. He’s that special. If he wanted to do it, he could.”