DES MOINES, IOWA – Darton State College freshman Jamel Sharp won the 125-pound class NJCAA Wrestling Championship title, Saturday, to become the first wrestler from Darton State College to stand above the rest on the champion’s podium.
Sharp, a Valdosta High graduate and AAAAA state champ, cruised through the tournament and dominated all five of his matches by at least six points or a pin. He finished with an astounding 29-1 record.
“I was confident that he was going to win,” said Darton head wrestling coach James Hicks. “I was nervous about every match, because we hadn’t seen any of these kids before, but within the first minute of each one, I could tell he was going to win.”
It was a goal that had been in the mindset of Sharp for a long time.
“The first thought I had was ‘I did it… all of those years of hard work have paid off,’” he said. “I called my mother and she screamed louder than I’ve ever heard her; she said she was proud about how I showed everyone in our community how special I can be.”
Sharp said his high school coach, Benjamin Scarbor, and many other people from his county have given him a lot of support in his efforts. “This is for them, for my community, for all they’ve done for me,” he said.
His triumph Saturday seemed to shock a wrestling world dominated by Northern colleges, as Sharp was unranked all season leading into the tournament.
Even after the final, as Sharp stepped onto the winners’ podium to be announced as the 125-pound champion, viewers of the internet webcast could hear the commenters say “wrestling is typically up here in the Midwestern part of the States… but we have a Georgia boy this year… they obviously know a little wrestling down there.”
Hicks, who took over the Darton program on July 1, had only a little over a month to recruit student-athletes into the program. He said that he already knew about Sharp from his previous coaching job.
“I knew Darton was a half hour away from his house, and I got him to visit campus,” Hicks said. “Darton was a better fit for him anyway, and things went our way. It took some luck and hard recruiting to get a guy like that in only a month.”
“He’s very coachable,” Hicks said. “A lot of guys that talented aren’t, and that’s what put him over the top. Jamel does everything you ask and he wants to get better. He trains hard and he deserves the title.