6 feet tall. 280 pounds. 4th in the State of North Carolina in high school Wrestling. First impressions would never reveal that Jovan Jarrett began the sport he now dominates to appease his best friend’s daily harassment.
“[My best friend] told me every single day that I should wrestle with him, so I finally came to a practice, and the next thing I knew I was on Varsity and I fell in love,” reminisces Jarrett. “We always joke about it- I really wasn’t going to do it.”
Jarrett discovered his passion as a freshman at the home of the Imps, and now leads the Cougars’ wrestling team as a senior. Jarrett speculates that when people first meet him outside of wrestling they fondly think, “ohhh, Jovan, so bubbly and happy.” The mat is a separate universe.
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“The aggression is my favorite part of wrestling,” admits Jarrett. “During practice, if my drill partner gets hurt, I’ll just grab someone else and start wrestling with them.”
Wrestling is intense. Practices are tough, physically and mentally. Sometimes “two-a-days” consume Jovan’s time. Last year, Jarrett “didn’t wrestle a lot because [he] started off with a concussion, and then it moved to [his] ankle, and then it was [his] shoulder, and then it was [his] elbow, and then the season was over.” Listening to his tales of injury and wrestling intensity, I had trouble comprehending how he remains motivated.
“Two people are going to walk on that mat, and only one person is going to win, so why not let it be you” rationalizes Jarrett. Evidently, wrestling success requires more than a weekly one-hour practice and a dash of pixie dust. Jarrett’s weeks are not spent like much of consumerist America: indoors, inhaling pints of mint-chocolate chip ice-cream, catching up on the latest season of The Walking Dead. “If you want to be successful in wrestling, going to practice isn’t just what it takes,” explains Jarrett.
So what does it take? Jarrett mapped out his typical weekday for me: “I usually get up, go to the gym, maybe go running, maybe lift weights. Then I go to school. Then I go to practice where we have drills and then running. Then I have to go to work, or the nights I don’t work I go to another practice. [I] have to also watch what [I] eat, go to the gym and sprint a mile, or lift. It’s what you do off the mat and on the mat.”
Weight is not taken lightly in wrestling. In Jarrett’s words, “You can not even be .01 pounds over your weight class at a match.” Jarrett’s Saturdays are often spent traveling the East Coast, leaving trails of pinned competitors in his wake. Consequently, Saturday night is everyone’s “cheat day”. Jarrett laughed that “[On Saturday] people are always choking down food, and Monday suddenly [they] realize [they] have to lose a bunch of weight again.”
While we spend our evenings trying to forgive ourselves for surrendering to the last slice of triple chocolate-pie, wrestlers are desperately working to lose the last pounds before match day. “Some people who are [a few] pounds over the day before a match have to do a bunch of running, and go to multiple practices”, admitted Jarrett. “And you CAN’T EAT. Not even water. It weighs a lot too.”
Amazingly, he is still in love with the sport. “I want to do wrestling as long as I possibly can”, asserts Jarrett. “This year actually I decided that I want to be a coach. When I came to Apex people asked me for advice [about wrestling] and it actually benefited them. I want to be a coach because of that.”
Jovan Jarrett: An Apex wrestling hero with the eye of the tiger, the heart of a teddy bear, and enough dedication to carry himself and his team to victories. Watch out.