By John D'Onofrio
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
One of the greatest student-athletes in Barker history is gearing up to compete this weekend in the state wrestling tournament at the Times Union Center in Albany.
Austin Blackley, the son of Sean and Michelle Blackley of Johnson Creek Road, Middleport, has been seeded fourth in the small schools 220-pound weight class.
Earlier this month in East Aurora, Blackley, listed at 6-feet, 3-inches, 220 pounds, took first place in the Section VI State Qualifiers (Class C and D schools). He also took first place at the Section VI Class D Championships that were held in Chautauqua Lake on Feb. 3-4.
“I’ve been coaching him now for six years — two on modified and four years on varsity. He’s tremendous. I’ve never seen a kid grow and gain so much muscle throughout his career. He started as a 120 pounder and now he’s at 220,” said Barker wrestling head coach Nate Sutch.
“Austin’s put in a tremendous amount of work in the off seasons in the weight room. He focused on the weight room in the summer for both football and wrestling that was always his main focus.”
In the fall, as a star player on the merged Barker/Royalton-Hartland football team, Blackley led the team in rushing with 1,315 yards and 20 touchdowns. Barker/Roy-Hart captured the G-R title with a perfect 7-0 record.
In addition to his first place finish at the 2012 Niagara Orleans All-League Wrestling Tournament, Blackley also repeated as a first-place finisher at the 2012 Lockport Wrestling Tournament.
This season, Austin also took first at the Barker Wrestling Tournament, was second at the Akron Tournament and placed third at the Niagara County Community College Wrestling Officials Tournament.
Blackley, who finished 30-4 this season, is just one of three students in the history of Barker to qualify for the state tournament.
“He’s definitely a leader. He’s just a gamer. He goes out there and he’s very physical. He’s got great hips for a wrestler. He gets out of bad situations very well and he’s smart. He takes advantage of other kids’ mistakes.”
Sutch is assisted by Jason Nellist.