Student wrestler proves skill, determination through involvement

Andrew Buck

As two men stare at each other across the mat, each contemplating how to best defeat the other, the crowd that has formed waits in anticipation. A whistle is blown and they dive at each other. Junior Kaleb Jenkins slams his opponent to the ground, subduing him with a pin.

Jenkins utilizes the advantage he has over his competition because of his involvement in both wrestling and karate to beat his competitors in unique and unexpected forms.

“I’ve noticed that when I’m in karate I’m more of an aggressive person. The stances and flexibility also come in handy for wrestling.”
The primary aspect found in wrestling, but not in many other sports, is the self-reliance needed to fight one-on-one.

“Wrestling’s a lot more individual than other sports,” said Jenkins. “I have to work on my offense or my defense. It’s really interesting, I have to think ‘I got this guy’s leg, what do I do with it?’, ‘Oh, I got off the ground, which way am I gonna bring him?’ You have to be able to react and think ‘He’s about to throw me, am I gonna flip or am I gonna stick it up?’”

Wrestling coach Michael Zito acknowledges the special abilities Kaleb offers given his diverse background as a competitive fighter.

“He came to wrestling last year with a martial arts background and those skills transfer back and forth to wrestling and martial arts,” said Zito. “He started off with a good feel for his abilities and positioning. Since then he has progressed into wrestling where he understands now how it applies to takedowns, pins, and different wrestling moves. He has matured a lot in the last year.”

Zito has influenced Kaleb through his knowledge of both wrestling and teaching anatomy and forensic science.

“I feel like when he teaches stuff it makes sense,” said Jenkins. “He wrestled when he was younger, but I’m pretty sure the science helps out with how the motion works.”

Zito has seen Kaleb transform throughout the year into an upstanding fighter by pushing through initial apathy to discover his true appreciation for the sport.

“Last year it was just something to do, but now I’ve definitely seen a change in him,” Zito said. “He really has a passion for the karate and the MMA, so it was definitely something he had a grasp on, but last year I don’t think he really made the connection. This year he’s really made the connection and everything’s starting to click and make more sense to him.”

Even though someone with as much dedication as Kaleb is met with acclamation from his coaches, there is still a long way to go.

“Oh, I know that I need a lot of practice,” Kaleb said. “I usually win because of my cardio, but I know I need to get some of my technique stuff down because I’ve only been wrestling for a year.”

Kaleb plans to continue in both sports, and after graduation may attend a Christian university.

“I’m in my fourth year of karate, and I will get my black belt at the end of this year in May,” Kaleb said. “If I do go to college, I may think about joining the wrestling team.