Joe Albina does a lot of tough things, both on the football field and the wrestling mats.
But the toughest thing the Milford High School senior had to do last season didn’t require stepping into the competitive arena. In fact, it was staying out.
Late last season, Albina suffered a concussion and was forced to sit out the Spartans’ final two games. Milford split those two games, but watching them was brutal for Albina.
“I really wanted to play, but it wasn’t worth the risk having a concussion,” he said. “It was really frustrating.”
Albina bounced back from the injury to win a Division II and Meet of Champions wrestling title at 170 pounds. And this year, not only is he back for his senior season, Albina will serve as a captain for Milford this season.
“I think it’s very important (being a leader),” he said. “Being a captain on the wrestling team and being a captain now for football, I’ve had experience being in a leadership role. Being able to bring guidance and set the example really helps breed the type of attitude that we need.”
Milford coach Keith Jones doesn’t doubt that Albina will bring that attitude to a team that is young, but got a lot of experience during the 2011 season.
“He’s always been that kid,” Jones said. “He’s an inspiration to some kids. He leads by example.”
While Albina brings the Spartans leadership on the field, he also serves as several other things for Milford between the lines and when he was hurt last season, it left a big void.
“The kid is a wrecking machine,” Jones said. “Hard-core toughness, that’s him. You can’t tell him he can’t do something. He’ll do it.
“When he got hurt, I’m sure (it was tough) because he’s such a competitor. It was tougher for us, I think, not having him. He’s the backbone. He does a lot of things and does a lot of things well.”
Albina will resume his role in the Spartans’ backfield on offense, but Jones is looking to find a regular spot for him on defense. Last year, Albina moved around a lot, but there’s one consistent thing the Milford coaches are hoping to get.
“We played him a lot of places (on defense) last year,” Jones said. “If he can run side to side and make tackles, we’ll be all right. If he can’t …”
If he has his way, Albina will be making plenty of tackles.
“On defense, you have to predict what’s going to happen and it’s more of a challenge,” he said. “It’s great to have the team with you and everybody gets pumped up. One hit like that can bring the whole team up and turn a game around.”
Albina hopes to continue his athletic career next year, but not on the football field. A few schools have shown interest in the senior for wrestling, including Binghamton and Old Dominion.
“I’m hoping to continue wrestling at the next level,” he said. “We’ll see. I don’t really care if I go to Division I. I just want to stay in the sport.”