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State Champion Combs took an unnoticable "break"

Broadneck senior Austin Combs recalls suffering the left-hand injury which led to him telling his champion father, Chris, that he wanted to shift his focus to lacrosse and to no longer wrestle.

“I had wrestled from the time I was a five-year-old up until the eighth grade, and I had done off-season work for my freshman year, so the plan was to wrestle. But at our very first scrimmage, right off the whistle, I broke two of my fingers as a result of taking a takedown shot. It was my pinkie and middle finger on my left hand,” Austin Combs said. “My eighth-grade and freshman year, when I told my dad I wanted to take lacrosse more seriously and that's what I wanted to do in college, he fully supported me, so at that point, I decided to stop wrestling and to focus on lacrosse. It was very easy to step away from wrestling and to focus on what I needed to do.”

Chris Combs earned consecutive Class 4A-3A state titles at Old Mill in 1997 and 1998 and is among the Patriots’ seven repeat champions along with Chuck Sturm (1982, 1983), Charlie Royer (1984, 1985), Greg Wise (1988, 1989), Adam DeCosmo (2000, 2001), Greg Saumenig (2006, 2007) and 285-pound R.J. Duncan (2023, 2024).

In spite of his own history and commitment to wrestling, Chris Combs not only anticipated Austin’s decision, but he respected it.

"As a junior leaguer, Austin wrestled a national level schedule, but it can be frustrating when you come home with a .500 record. I said, 'Austin, you can be competitive if you’re wrestling for three months a year,’” Combs said. “‘But if you can give me 10 or 11 months out of the year, I can turn you into a national champion.’ I knew his decision had been coming for quite a while because wrestling was something Austin could do because he could, whereas Austin always loved lacrosse.”

But after committing to play lacrosse at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, Austin Combs began to miss the mats.

“I'm a lacrosse player. I've committed to college for lacrosse. So, I focused on that up until this year,” Austin Combs said. “But when I made my commitment to play lacrosse, I decided that I wanted to come back this year. It was great having my dad and [head] coach [Reid] Bloomfield in my corner. That definitely helped me a lot to get back into shape.”

Combs’s return was a smooth one as he went 48-1 with 40 pins en route to earning Anne Arundel County and Class 4A-3A state tournament titles, the latter representing a rebound a week after having suffered his lone defeat in the finals of the Class 4A-3A East Region tournament.

“It feels pretty good. I had not wrestled since eighth grade,” Austin Combs said. "It's amazing to be able to bounce back like that and to come back out and to show that I still deserve to be on top and now I am on top.”

Combs won his championship, 4-2, on an overtime single-leg takedown on previously unbeaten senior Joe Clark (39-1) of Oakland Mills, a Class 2A-1A runner-up last year.

The account of Combs’ victory over Clark is best described by the person who experienced it.

"There were no points scored in the first period when there was a lot of hand fighting and a lot of back-and-forth. Second period, right off the whistle he got up and got out and was up, 1-0. I didn't try to fight it because I knew who I was up against and he's one strong wrestler. So, I let him right up. The rest of the period we were hand-fighting,” Austin Combs said. “I took the bottom in the third period and got a reversal, and I was up, 2-1. He got another escape and it was 2-2. The rest of the period was straight hand-fighting. In overtime, I got a takedown right off the whistle, but they called it out of bounds after like a three-minute conversation. So, I went back and did a low single-leg off the whistle and I got it again to win, 4-2. That's how I got my takedown in overtime."

Austin Combs had lost the previous weekend’s Class 4A-3A East Regional title, 9-3, to Crofton senior Jacob Speed a week after having vanquished Speed by 6-3 in their Anne Arundel County title bout.

Combs had used a fall in 2:45 and decisions of 9-7 and 7-4 to reach the finals against Clark, who defeated Speed by the overtime score of 3-1 in their semifinal match.

"The hardest part for me is watching Austin wrestle,” Chris Combs said. “It’s a lot more nerve-wracking to watch him than it was wrestling in my own matches myself.”

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