Nick Frank scooped up his backpack and held a half-eaten Subway sandwich in his left hand as he walked toward the exit.
As Frank was about to push through the gymnasium’s double doors and enter the mid-December night, one of his teammates, Nick Keller, bellowed to his same-named companion.
“Hey Nick,” Urbana High School’s heavyweight wrestler yelled. “Come over here for a second.”
One of the Hawks’ four captains, Frank jogged toward Keller, looked him in the eyes, shook his hand and said, “Nick Keller, great job tonight.”
Keller thanked him and then wrapped his arm around Frank’s shoulder. The mammoth Keller towered over Frank, who usually wrestles at 145, as Frank’s head barely came up to Keller’s chest.
“It’s absolutely terrifying knowing that this guy can pin me and I’m more than twice his size,” Keller said with a smile, but an underlying tone of seriousness. “It’s absolutely terrifying. But it’s nice knowing that someone’s always got my back.”
If that’s how Frank makes his own teammates feel, imagine what Urbana’s opponents must go through when they line up opposite the experienced senior grappler.
Frank has been a longtime leader for the Hawks. He spearheaded Urbana’s run to the 4A/3A state dual meet championships last season and recorded his 100th victory as a junior. In a pair of matches on Monday, including a thrilling 36-29 comeback victory, Frank put in a combined 1 minute, 24 seconds of work.
He pinned South River’s Baruch Talbott in 58 seconds and Linganore’s Ian Fauisoner in just 26 seconds.
Before the match began, however, chances are Frank didn’t anticipate matching up against Talbott.
“As a coaching staff, you just try to keep him around as a positive influence,” Hawks coach Ben Arneson said. “He can wrestle down to 132, but I put him at 152 [against Talbott]. As far as the dual meet championships go, that’s what we’re going to have to do to make it happen.”
Frank — whose top three college choices to continue his wrestling career are the United States Military Academy, United States Air Force and the University of North Carolina — had no reservations about bumping up a weight class.
“That was a bit of a challenge,” said Frank, whose nickname is Yogi because when he yells he sounds like a bear. “I weighed in kind of light even at 145. When coach said I was at 152, I was like, ‘All right, why not?’ I went out there and did what I could do.”
During the passionate match against the Seahawks, Frank was the only one of the team’s four captains to win his bout.
“It’s worrying because I know a lot of the guys look up to us,” said Frank, who also has tried football and martial arts, but said he far prefers wrestling. “Sometimes if the captains can’t get their job done, it makes a lot of the other wrestlers wonder, ‘Oh God, if the captains can’t do it, maybe I can’t do it.’”
Team confidence perhaps shaken, Frank positioned himself next to freshman Jake Makosy, the team’s 113-pound grappler who was scheduled to wrestle last, right after he pinned Talbott. As the Hawks accumulated points during the 22-point comeback, it became more evident that it would come down to Makosy. If the freshman won, so did the Hawks.
Frank, who went 48-3 last season and finished third in the state, walked with Makosy as he warmed up for the match, periodically giving him advice.
“Don’t worry about it,” Frank, a 10-year wrestling veteran, told the freshman. “It’s going to be loud and obnoxious. Cancel everything out. You know what to do, go out there, do your thing and get us the W.”
Makosy won by major decision, 10-0, and sealed the result for Urbana.
Frank said his goal for the season is to go undefeated and win a state duals championship as well as an individual state title. So far, he’s won all four bouts and has helped the Hawks not miss a beat from last year’s title run. He wears his championship ring nearly every day.
“It was nice to have that as a bit of a wake-up call, show us what we need to work on, show us where we stand in the rankings,” Frank said. “It showed us how we need to improve and kind of helped get our confidence up because that was a big win. It was good.”