Photo courtesy of Jim Pressler.
Manny Allan was unable to wrestle much in his sophomore and junior seasons, due to multiple knee injuries. Given the advice to give up wrestling after the knee injuries, Allan came back and put together a phenomenal senior season.
When Manny Allan first saw the sign, he had a totally different picture in his head.
“There was a sign at my football practice, saying there were tryouts for wrestling,” Allan said. “Back then, I was really into the WWE, so I was thinking ropes and everything.”
His dad allowed him to sign up, but when he walked into the wrestling room for the first time as a fifth-grader, he was surprised.
“I thought, ‘This is not what I pictured,’” Allan said.
But he stuck with it and quickly became one of the top wrestlers in his class. He won the Metro championship as an eighth-grader at Oak Mountain Middle School, where he wrestled for two years.
He moved to Spain Park High School prior to his freshman year, and advanced to the state tournament as a ninth-grader. He was well on his way to putting together an illustrious high school career, one full of eye-popping records and multiple accomplishments.
Then adversity struck.
A knee injury wiped out nearly all his sophomore season. Allan rehabbed and made it back for the final stretch of the year, but he was unable to qualify for the state tournament.
But instead of using that as a propelling force into his junior year, pain struck again. He sustained another knee injury, one that would knock him out for the entire season.
“I wanted to quit, because it was my second knee injury,” Allan said.
After the initial depression of suffering that injury, he vowed to not let that moment define him, despite the advice others gave him.
“Everyone told me I shouldn’t wrestle again, but I said, ‘I’m going to,’” he said.
Through the regular season portion of the schedule, Allan lost just one match, to an opponent outside of Alabama. While his coaches were not surprised, Allan certainly was.
“I was getting my butt kicked over the summer by kids I used to beat,” Allan said. “I just kept going to practice every day, and I started getting better. It wasn’t until my first match that I didn’t get taken down once.”
Despite being limited for the majority of the last two years, Allan has learned what it takes to be a high-quality wrestler. He cited mental toughness as one of the primary keys to winning or losing a match. He also is a firm believer in the power of a healthy diet.
He learned that lesson the hard way. In middle school, he was forced to cut a significant amount of weight in just a few weeks, and he said he went most days just eating a single orange.
“It’s really hard to wrestle with just an orange [in your stomach],” he said.
But after doing some research, he found the balance that worked for him. Now, he eats every two hours, usually a protein-packed snack. He tries to consume 220 grams of protein per day and 130 grams of healthy fats.
That confidence in his diet gives him an edge on the mat over counterparts who attempt to make weight by eating less.
“If I go in every single match knowing that I’m going to make weight, I just have the energy,” Allan said. “Hard work helps.”
Because Allan’s time on the mat has been limited the last few years, it has taken some time for college programs to take notice of his ability. His strong senior season took care of that quickly.
“I thought I wasn’t going to get a scholarship, but colleges started contacting me. I do want to wrestle in college,” Allan said.
“He has the ability to excel as a wrestler on the college level,” said his coach at Spain Park, Ryan Thompson. “To be good in college, you have to be good on your feet in the neutral position, and you have to hand-fight and be physical and aggressive, and that’s his strong suit.”
As for his goals beyond college? Well, Allan still has “ropes and everything” in mind.
“I’d love to go into the WWE. That would be cool,” he said.