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Athlete of the Week: Justin Robinson, Zimmerman wrestling
As one of the top wrestlers to ever step foot on the wrestling mat at Zimmerman High School, Justin Robinson hopes to end his senior season at the Minnesota State High School League wrestling tournament.
In an otherwise flawless wrestling career, including 79 career wins, setting the Thunder varsity pins record (58), an All-Conference honor and seven first-place tournament finishes, the state tournament is pretty much the only thing left to add to the resume. But, as much as he’d love to accomplish that, to say state is his ultimate goal wouldn’t be true at all.
“Whether I go to state or not, my No. 1 goal of the season is to glorify God above all else,” Robinson said.
Just a few years ago, this wouldn’t have been the case.
Heading into his freshman year of high school, friends Jacob Hiatt and Nathaniel Boyer convinced Justin to attend youth group at Refuge Church in Zimmerman. At the time, Robinson had gone to church a couple times in the past, but admitted he went for the wrong reasons and that summer was no exception.
“I was disinterested with the God part of it,” he said. “I had the attitude of ‘I think I believe in God,’ but I mainly went with them because it was fun.”
Fast forward a couple weeks and that attitude slowly began to change. Jacob and Nathaniel hyped up a weekend trip to a 24-acre island on Lake Shamineau for a guys retreat with the church. After giving it some careful thought, Justin decided he’d go, along with his fraternal twin Austin, with the hopes of having a fun time playing games, swimming and camping out with his friends.
Little did he know, this trip would change his life forever.
“On the second night, I was talking to Jacob and he was telling me about his story (accepting Jesus) and what’s happened in his life,” Justin said. “He eventually started telling me how my life would be when I accept Jesus into my life. He told me about how I would be born again, that I would still be the same Justin personality wise, but that God would mold me to be more Christ-like.
“Then, he led me to talk to pastor Zack (Skoglund). We went on the side of a hill and we talked and there he guided me to accept Jesus into my life.”
Since then, Justin admits he’s been a changed person, living a life full of joy and purpose.
“Before I accepted God into my life, I was like every other teen guy. I wasn’t a bad kid by any means, but God showed me that even small sin is still sin, like telling a white lie or cheating on a test,” he said. “He has taught me to cut crap like that out of my life and be as trustworthy, kind and loving as I can be, and not just be that way when people are looking.”
As for Jacob, he didn’t expect the weekend to be as influential as it was in Justin’s life, but he couldn’t be happier about the way it turned out.
“I don’t remember his life too much before that day in any significant fashion, but I know enough to say he is a totally different person now and he was a much different person after that trip,” Jacob said. “It’s very clear to me that when he is out on the mat, on the field, in the halls at school, or even at home, he is always living a life in pursuit of his faith and I thank God every day that him and I have been able to walk this journey together.”
Robinson’s newfound faith worked its way into wrestling rather quickly. During one practice in his sophomore season, he remembers Thunder head coach Pat Burch getting on his case about dogging a conditioning workout. Instead of reacting poorly to the criticism, he took his coach’s words to heart and brought them to God.
“I wouldn’t have been bothered by Coach yelling at me before I accepted Jesus, I would have just brushed it off, but I think God really made that stick out to me because afterwards I kept thinking about it,” Justin said.
From that moment on, Justin decided to give 100 percent to whatever he did, even conditioning workouts. Additionally, he started praying before every match.
Jacob was a senior manager for the team during Justin’s sophomore season and remembers praying with him before matches that year, saying “he always recited 1 Corinthians 10:31.” The Bible verse states, “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
The verse has stuck with Robinson to this day. He realizes that whether he’s on the mat or in the classroom, he’s not just doing it for his coaches, teachers, family or friends, he’s doing it for God.
“God has become very real to me, day to day, knowing he’s everywhere,” Justin said. “So, when it comes to work ethic, I’m out there pushing myself because in the Bible it says ‘whatever you do, do it to glorify God,’ so I’m representing God (with what I do). When I’m not pushing myself or being lazy, God is right here in the room and he knows.”
Ever since Justin started praying before matches and living out his favorite verse, the wrestling side of things has come together in a way he couldn’t have imagined before. Growing up, he said he was a “pudgy kid” and didn’t think he could compete with the stronger wrestlers, but the hard work and dedication to God has made him into one of the top high school wrestlers in the state. Specifically, he broke out with a 20-14 record in his sophomore season and followed that up with an impressive 32-2 junior season. This season, he stands at 25-5, giving him a 79-23 lifetime record at Zimmerman.
Coach Burch is happy to have such a high-character, elite wrestler leading the way as the lone senior on the squad. In turn, the two-time captain has helped lead the team to a five-win season, a four-game improvement from last year.
“Justin has meant a lot to the Zimmerman wrestling program over the last three years,” Burch said. “He has been a leader in the locker room and in the classroom. He motives the other wrestlers to work hard in practice and gives the team breakdown pep talks after every practice. During tournaments, he is mat side watching and cheering on all the other kids on the team.”
He added: “As a wrestler, he is as tough as they come, yet he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He wins with class and loses with class.”
Robinson’s top moment of the season came in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Invitational on Jan. 20. Although he took second place, he broke Zimmerman’s career pins record, previously held by two-time state champion Zach Nielsen, and the 75 career wins milestone in the process. Accomplishing the feats was a reflection of just how far he’s come over the years and he gives credit to God, his coaches, former wrestling partner Kaleb Kliever, and his mom, Patty, for helping him get to this point in his wrestling career.
Although it’ll soon come to an end at Zimmerman, Robinson’s final opportunity to make state comes at individual sections on Feb. 24 at Albany High School. Regardless of the outcome, you can be assured of one thing: He’ll glorify God with the result.
“If I do that, I’m going to be A-OK,” he said.
What We Do
The Zimmerman Booster Club would like to thank the many volunteers currently involved, now and from the past. It takes many volunteers coming together to make a difference.
As a Booster Club we are interested in any ideas you may have to better our student’s experiences here at Zimmerman middle school and high school.
Getting involved in your school through the Booster Club is fun and a great way to meet other adults and faculty. We are always looking for people to help with ideas and the planning of Booster Club activities. Everything we do benefits the students of our school and community. We support our Academics, Arts and Athletics. Come check out what we are up to!
Booster Club meetings are always the 2nd Monday of each month, except when there is no school that day. Then it will be the following Monday. Meetings are at 7:00 in the ZHS media center. Please Come and Check It Out!
We are always interested in your thoughts, please come to any meeting and help make a difference.
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