CC’s Murin full of confidence heading to states

01/28/17 Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Central Cambria's Max Murin decisioned Athens' Brian Courtney 3-1 to win the 138 pound championship in the Thomas Chevrolet Tournament.

After his 3-2 loss to Athens’ Brian Courtney in the 126-pound final at the PIAA Class 2A Championships last year, Central Cambria’s Max Murin sat dejectedly against a wall in a hallway.

A returning state champion, his dream of being a three-time state champ was dashed. He had his chance in the final 20 seconds of the bout, holding Courtney’s leg in the air on a shot, but he couldn’t finish it.

“It was terrible, and it’s still terrible,” Murin said. “I wanted to be a three-time state champ. Once that happened, I knew I couldn’t do it. I think it benefited me in the long run and made me a better wrestler.”

The loss stayed with Murin throughout the offseason and made him work harder than he already had. He gained some revenge with a 3-2 win over Courtney in the Disney Duals and a 3-1 victory in the much-anticipated final at the Thomas Chevrolet Tournament.

“It definitely motivated me a lot,” Murin said, “but it also taught me a lot. I think about that loss probably every day before practice, before every workout. It taught me to go out there and let it fly. I was too worried about winning and losing last year. I have to worry about going out and wrestling to the best of my ability.

“I felt I could have been more offensive. I felt I was definitely trying to keep it close instead of trying to score as many points as possible. I think I was wrestling cautiously.”

“He just took (Courtney’s) picture down off of his locker,” Central Cambria coach Bob Nikolishen said. “So it’s very similar to Rocky, when he pulled (Ivan) Drago’s picture off of his mirror. I said ‘We’ve got to clean the locker room out,’ and that was the first time I’ve seen that picture gone. He had it up until the time he beat (Courtney) at Bedford.”

It may seem hard to believe that Murin has gotten better than last year, but it seems clear that he has. He’s 36-0 with 22 pins and eight technical falls, and he has improved his chain wrestling, moving from one move to another and constantly attacking and wearing down his opponents.

“You watch a lot of really good wrestlers in college right now who came from Young Guns, like the (Jason) Nolfs, the (Michael) Kemerers, Vincenzo (Joseph) and all of those guys, and they’re unbelievable at chain wrestling,” Murin said. “That’s definitely something I’ve tried to improve in the offseason.”

“That was his goal from the beginning,” Nikolishen said. “He wanted to be that kind of guy who tech-falled, and he didn’t worry about pins. He wasn’t worried about having the career pin record or anything like that. When he doesn’t win (by technical fall), then he’s very upset because he feels it should be that all the time. His favorite word is dominate, and his vocabulary dominate means tech. fall. In reality, dominate is just controlling the match the whole way through, and that’s what he’s doing no matter what the score is.”

Murin has dedicated his life to wrestling, and you can see that in the unbelievably crazy workout schedule he puts himself through. Murin will get up at 5 a.m. to lift weights with his dad, Mike, before he goes to school. His first two years at the high school level, he went to the Young Guns Wrestling Clubs in Altoona and UPJ after practice.

The last two years, when the Red Devils don’t wrestle dual meets during the week, he’s been participating in practices and then driving four days a week to two Young Gun clubs in the Pittsburgh area. He’s been going two nights a week to Franklin Regional in Murrysville and then going two nights to Norwin in North Huntingdon, about 26 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

“(Gavin) Teasdale, (Penn Trafford’s) Cam Coy and Spencer (Lee) and all of those guys in the WPIAL are there,” he said. “I make the drive down there to wrestle those guys.”

He says he gets home around 10:45 or 11 p.m. from those workouts. How many of us could up that kind of schedule?

“Wrestling has definitely been really good to me, but it also takes up a lot of my time,” he said. “If you love something, I feel like you should be able to do it. I’m not the most naturally talented guy, but I feel like I definitely outwork most of the guys in the country.

“A lot of my family members were worried about me burning out my freshman and sophomore year, but it kind of went the opposite way. I just started loving it more and getting more and more hungry to continue to get better.

“Yeah, I don’t know how he does it either,” Nikolishen said. “He’s never missed one of our practices, though.”

Murin, who is 151-5 with 85 pins in his career, has set a number of program records throughout his career, and he’s added to that list this year, becoming the school’s first four-time District 6 champion, being voted the Outstanding Wrestler in the process, and four-time Southwest Regional champion.

“Honestly, I don’t take much pride in that,” Murin said. “I’m sure in the future I’ll look at my past and hopefully be proud of it. Right now, I won’t settle on any history that I broke. I want to go on and keep trying to break more records.”

Murin has placed fifth, first and second, respectively, in his first three state tournaments, so he knows all about the pressure that wrestlers feel in Hershey. But he doesn’t seem to be too worried about it.

“I think I’ll handle it well,” Murin said. “It’s just a wrestling tournament. I’ve wrestled probably thousands of them in the past. I’m still strapping on my shoes, just going at it and having fun. I just want to dominate as much as possible. The only one that can beat me is myself. I feel like I did what was necessary to win a state title, and now it’s time to prove it.

“I can’t wait. These last couple days, I’ve been really excited. I just want to step on the mat and go at it.”

As you can tell, Murin has turned into a very confident wrestler, which he says has been part of his growth as a wrestler.

“I think that’s a big part in my development this year,” Murin said. “I think this time last year I was really nervous for the state tournament. This year, I’m really confident, and I’m just ready to go out there and compete.”

Murin, of course, signed to wrestle for Iowa before the season started. On Sunday, he was watching the Hawkeyes finish third in the Big Ten Championships. He can’t wait to get to Iowa.

“My goal is to be in the Big Ten finals on the Big Ten Network for everyone to see,” Murin said. “It will be awesome to be in an Iowa singlet. I’m excited. I can’t wait to have the Brands (head coach Tom Brands, assistant coach Terry Brands) and all of the Iowa coaching staff in my corner. I think I’m going to thrive in the Iowa system. I’m excited to try to make my dreams come true.”

Before then, he’ll be going after that second title. And then Nikolishen will have a major hole to fill next season.

“Oh, impossible. He’s irreplaceable,” Nikolishen said. “There’s no one that’s going to be just like him.”