Eric Akin isn't afraid to get down and dirty. And he isn't afraid to talk about his life as a wrestler, a father, his relationship with Jesus Christ, and what he considers happiness.
On the mat, the Texas Shooter's 121 pound wrestler loves everything about the sport. He loves getting hot, sweaty, mixing it up, and working out to the point of exhaustion. He loves the fight, the battle for position, scrapping with an opponent, everything that the sport of wrestling defines
A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Akin now lives in Gardner, Kansas.
Off the mat Akin loves the hard work of being a blue collar man, where he uses over 20 years of experience in carpentry, craftsmanship and home development working for his father (whom he calls the Dan Gable of carpentry), the owner of a Kansas City-based construction company that specializes in home remodeling.
"He taught me the value of hard work," says Akin a sense of pride beaming from his voice. "To me, work is beating up cement, fighting boards like I am fighting a wrestler, and using my hands to build something."
If wrestling is a blue-collar sport, a sport where only real men need apply, then Akin is the granddaddy of them all. It's not just because at 34 "and with a few gray hairs "he's the oldest competitor in Real Pro Wrestling. It's because Akin is what he sounds like "one hard-working, tough you know what.
"I'm a blue collar guy," says Akin, a four-time NCAA All-American while competing under Bobby Douglas and Jim Gibbons at Iowa State. "I don't want to put on a suit and tie and sit in an office all day. That's not me. I look at work like I do wrestling. I'm going to go in, bust my tail, and do my job. I'm working with down-to-earth people and when it's quitting time, you go home knowing you did a job well done. That's happiness."
But when Akin leaves that job site or steps off the wrestling mat, that gruff and tough exterior turns over to Eric Akin the husband, father, and youth coach. Akin has had his share of collegiate and international wrestling success - he placed 10 times at the U.S. Open and won a title in 2001. But if you want to know what Akin is really about, get him talking about his wife Stephanie and his four children.
"I've always valued family," says Akin. "To me, that has always been the most important thing in life. To go home knowing I have a wonderful wife and kids, what more can a man want?"
On this day though, Akin isn't going home after work "not yet at least. He's on his way to practice at the Matside Wrestling Academy in Gardner, where he has helped train over 120 wrestlers from throughout the greater Kansas City area. His passion for youth wrestling "and desire to share his experience with others - is defined by a free clinic he is putting on May 7 at Olathe's Northwest High School.
"I'm not in this for the money," says Akin. "In wrestling you can bust your butt everyday of the year and still not make a living. But if I can share my wrestling knowledge with a kid through my school or at a camp or clinic, if I can help make someone a champion on the mat or in life, then that's a victory for me."
Although he knows he is near the end of his competitive wrestling career "although he admits he just might not hang it up quite yet "Akin was thrilled to be a part of RPW and help the new league of superheros make its entrance into the professional sports landscape.
"I just love the sport, once it's in your blood, it's hard to get it out," he says. "But guys like Matt Case and Toby Willis are real stand up guys. I really respect them and what they are trying to do. If I could help in anyway, I was going to do it."
While many RPW competitors still have dreams of international success "with many focusing on the upcoming World Team Trials in June with one eye on the 2008 Olympics "Akin said he's done worrying about the world of international wrestling. Correct that, he's done worrying about the politics of the governing board of international wrestling "FILA.
"I don't even have a desire to be a World Champion anymore," Akin says. "FILA has done things to wrestlers that makes my blood boil. They're a bunch of crooks, they have no integrity. I'd rather put my blood, sweat and tears into something with values, like RPW. I'd rather be a champ in that league than have anything to do with FILA."
In the minds of many, Akin is a champion. A champion in the game of life.
"I have a beautiful wife, four wonderful kids, and Jesus Christ by my side" says Akin. "And I live in the United States of America, the best country in the world. That's more valuable than any world championship. Way more valuable."
Story By Staff Writer, RPW Home Office