Wrestling — it’s brutal, it is intense, and it is the act of physical engagement between two people striving to get an advantage over, or take control of the opponent by using certain physical techniques.
It’s also one of America’s most popular sports, gaining even more recognition through the rapidly evolving sport of mixed martial arts with stars such as Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin. But what about the local stars you rarely hear about?
After only two years of dedication to the sport, 15-year-old Damien Stone has already made a name for himself and is achieving more than he or his mother, Mary Stone, expected.
“He has accomplished a lot of things that I myself was reluctant to believe,” Stone said. “His coach Tim Parham saw something in Damien that no one else saw and I’m very thankful for that.”
Damien joined Jireh Sports, an organization formed to reach out to urban youth through nontraditional sports in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood and adjacent communities in 2006. Ever since he committed himself to wrestling, he has rapidly progressed at astonishing rates, taking him only two years what has taken others their whole career.
“I’ve grown to love to wrestle,” Damien says in his soft-spoken voice, though he stands at a whopping 6’3” and weighs 180 pounds. “I just wanted to do something different, and I’ve gotten better from years of experience.”
Damien’s team Jireh Sports travels to local high schools to compete and he says it was during these local meets where he first qualified for state in 2007. From his qualifications, he then was selected to be a part of the National Schoolboy/girl Duals Team Indiana. Damien says he injured himself but knew what he had to do to prepare for the following year.
“After my first year I knew what to expect the second time around so I wasn’t as nervous,” he says. “I lost first place in state this year by one point.”
Each year progressing more, learning his clinches, his holds, locking and leverages to running two to three miles every night and demonstrating dedication in wrestling, Damien along with only 51 wrestlers from each state qualified to be a part of the 2008 USA Wrestling Cadet National Championships.
“I was excited just to even see my son a part of this. He overcame a lot of obstacles in his life to get him where he is.” Stone said. “So many youth are in the news because of the trouble they’ve gotten into but we forget to celebrate our young men who are doing well.”
With his athleticism crossing over into wrestling, football, track and field, he admits wrestling is his favorite.
Stone says she has been approached by recruiters from Alabama State University while being infomred by others that her son would also be an outstanding candidate for Iowa State University and for the 2012 U.S. Olympics.
“We are taking all of this one day at a time, and whatever he wants to do, as his mother, I will support and love him either way,” Stone said.
Due to Damien’s progress and hopeful outlook in wrestling, he has been selected by the Sports Ambassador Programs to travel to New England, Fiji, and New Zealand for tryouts in preparation for the Olympics.
Stone notes it cost each child $10,000 to participate in the program while emphasizing Damien has a fund through the Teachers Credit Union for those who would be willing to assist her son fulfill his dream.
“I’m excited about my future in wrestling and the possibility of going to the Olympics in 2012,” Damien says. However he admits that may be his current goal but it’s not his life goal. “This is just for now. Ultimately I want to become a doctor and attend an Ivy League school.”
With a focused mind, dedication, natural talent, ability, athleticism and the willingness to consistently improve, Damien’s future in wrestling is bright, and his humble and meek heart have allowed him to reach heights Stone says she’s grateful she’s been able to witness.
“It’s not easy to raise a son on your own, but looking at all he has done it makes me feel that part of my job has been accomplished,” Stone said.
If you are interested helping Damien, phone Bradon Podgorski, sports administrator for the Sports Ambassador programs at (317) 410-6880.