It seems fitting that Nick Bautista's favorite wrestling move is often referred to as "the bulldog."
The word describes more than that with the Hilton Head High junior. Bautista is tough, physical and unafraid of a challenge.
And that explains his success on the wrestling mat, despite a relative lack of varsity experience. For two years, Bautista was planted behind Hilton Head High's best, Jack Duane and David Beck. He rarely saw the mat.
When both wrestlers graduated last year -- after each won an individual state title -- Bautista took advantage of his opportunity. He has spent much of his junior season as the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 189 pounds.
He decided to move up to the 215-pound weight class for this week's Class 3-A Lower State individual championships at Bluffton High School, where he hopes to qualify for next weekend's individual state championships.
The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette caught up with the Seahawks wrestler and lacrosse player to discuss his breakthrough year, his love for lacrosse and his leisure-time activities -- which include dancing.
Question: Wrestling behind state champions Jack Duane and David Beck, what did you learn?
Answer: Being behind Jack and Beck helped me and it hurt me. It helped me a lot more than it hurt me in the way that now I'm a great defensive wrestler. Jack and Beck would kick my (butt) every day, so I'd learn to deal with the beatings and learn how to defend everything. It hurt me because I would just never take shots on them because it was stupid to take shots on Jack.
Q: So have you put a lot of your focus this year on learning some offensive moves?
A: Well, in the beginning of the year, when I messed up my hand, I had to be a defensive wrestler. That's why the bulldog was perfect for me, so I kept doing that. My hand never really has gotten better, so I haven't been able to completely fully work on a shot.
Q: You still worked your way into the lineup in key spots last year -- last year's win in the Lower State finals against Bluffton stands out. What did that do for your career?
A: It was definitely an ego-booster. It was definitely something to keep me motivated to keep wrestling because I knew I had some kind of talent.
Q: We've seen you wrestle anywhere from 189 to heavyweight this year -- what's the difference in those weight classes?
A: You have to completely change your game plan every time you wrestle a different weight. You have to adjust -- of course I'm never going to try to pick up a heavyweight and try a move, but if I'm wrestling 189, I can do it no problem. So 215 is the in-between stage for me, which is why I'm wrestling there (for individual state championships).
Q: What is your current mind-set with Lower State and Class 3-A state in the next eight days?
A: I'm very nervous. I've never been there before. I don't know how it works. It's unknown territory for me.
Q: What can you learn about this portion of the season from the two guys we talked about earlier who won state titles?
A: Jack and Beck both worked really hard in practice and beat each other up every day in practice. That's one thing that we need to start striving to do in the practice room. We shouldn't be so friendly with each other in the practice room.
Q: Right after the season, you move on to lacrosse. Will you be sad your wrestling year is over, or are you ready for lacrosse?
A: I love lacrosse. I really like wrestling. I would never give up one for the other, but if I had to chose, it would definitely be lacrosse.
Q: What are some people missing out on by not knowing the game of lacrosse?
A: A lot of people have the wrong ideas about it and think it's a pretty boy's sport, but it really isn't. As soon as a person goes to one game, they start liking it. A quote that's always really stood out to me is when you're practicing a sport and it seems like you're just playing around, that's how you know you really love it. And that's what it feels like with lacrosse.
Q: What do you do in your free time when it's not spent playing sports?
A: I like to play Frisbee and play Call of Duty a lot. And I like to dance a lot.
Q: Dancing? I don't think those of us who watch you wrestle would expect that.
A: Well, it's not like actual dancing like you might think of it. It's just messing around with my friends and having fun.
Q: What kind of music do you dance to?
Q: You're serious?
Q: All right, then name me some of your best moves.
A: There's not really a name for what I do.