Sanders Takes Junior Olympic Gold

Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon


   Seventeen-year-old Jarrett Sanders will begin his senior year of high school at Ashland this year and may look just like any other senior walking through the hallways. However, Jarrett has earned an honor that no other high school senior in the area can claim. There's a Junior Olympic wrestling gold medal hanging on his wall.

   Jarrett has had one heck of a summer. He earned his spot on the Ohio Junior Olympics Team in the spring by placing first in the qualifying rounds at Delaware Hayes High School in Delaware, Ohio. In May, he won dual Kentucky state championships in both freestyle and Greco wrestling, earning him a spot in the National Wrestling Championships again this year. He finished those championships three weeks ago in the top 32nd in the nation in freestyle and the top 16th in Greco.

   Two weeks ago, he joined his Team Ohio teammates for a week of training at the Junior Olympic camp in Delaware, Ohio. Although a resident of Ashland, Jarrett qualifies to compete as part of Team Ohio because Kentucky does not have a Junior Olympic wrestling team. The team traveled last weekend to Greensboro, North Carolina so they could begin competition last Monday at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

   The first four days of competition was the Duels or the team competition. Going into the Duals, Jarrett said he was dealing with some residual anxiety from Fargo. He had been choked out twice in his last to the point of blacking out and the match being called. Jarrett said he “let it get to my head a little” so he didn't do his best starting in the Duals. Jarrett was “embarrassed to say” that he went 5-5 in the Duals competition. He feels that “I lost to myself because I couldn't overcome my fears and get in the right mindset.”

   Jarrett was not going to let his anxiety get the best of him. He had worked hard this summer practicing, improving, and learning new things. He says, “I worked hard on overcoming myself” during the first days of the competition and by the end of the Duals, “I was wrestling more like myself.”

   His anxiety did not stop him from stepping up to help a fellow teammate either. Although Jarrett is a high school wrestler on the Ashland Matcat team, he is also a coach for the Ashland Mini Matcats youth team. When he saw one of his teammates from Columbus trying to push through a match without a coach because he was on another mat with another wrestler, Jarrett jumped into his coaching role to help get him through the match. Jarrett's mother, Niki Sanders, says that he jumped in with “his coaching skills” because the Team Ohio members are there to “not only compete for themselves but to help each other whenever they can.”

   By the beginning of the individual matches on Thursday, Jarrett was ready to set his fears aside and get down to business. He wrestled three-for-three that day to take home the gold. In the championship match, Jarrett faced a wrestler from Team Maryland that he had already lost to at the beginning of the Duals four days prior. Jarrett threw him twice, gaining four points each time and then pinned him.

   Jarrett says that his screaming at the end of the match “just came out” because it “felt good to overcome myself.” He says that he immediately felt bad about it and jumped over to help his adversary off the mat and explained to him that the scream was for beating himself, not his opponent.

   He says that it was “really cool standing on the podium in the middle of all the placers and having them put that gold around my neck,” but that feeling did not compare to the “moment that the referee tapped the mat and I got the championship pin.” He earned his gold medal in the 132-pound weight division. Team Ohio placed second as a team in the Duals.

   This is the first time that Jarrett the gold medal at the Junior Olympics and the best he has ever wrestled at Fargo Nationals. Jarrett says that he is “happy about my accomplishments, and it feels good to see myself grow as a wrestler.” He says that “there are no words to explain how incredible it feels to push yourself past your fears, push yourself farther than you think you can go, and succeed.”