Fun & Games: The gentle giant of Greensboro College

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anthonyby Anthony Harrison

One might figure wrestling would be the oldest sport.

Of course, I’m talking about freestyle wrestling, not the bloated theatrics of professional wrestling.

It’s deceptively simple: Throttle your opponent to the ground, or as later rules would determine, force him outside a ring. It’s probably the fullest-contact sport in history, as the wrestler must pin the competition to the ground.

However, Greensboro College established a wrestling program just this season.

On Jan. 21, Greensboro College hosted a match with Southern Virginia University, winning 28-23 and improving its unimpressive record to 5-13.

Sophomore Mykel Williams contributed enormously to that victory.

Williams looms at 6-foot-1, 252 pounds, and he’s a hulk on the mat. Without meaning to, he would probably destroy most of the bones in my body in our opening grapple.

But he’s the type of guy who would apologize profusely afterwards.

Despite his enormity, Williams is an exceedingly polite, humble, mild-mannered young man from Henderson. He began wrestling his sophomore year at Northern Vance High School “because it looked cool.”

“I wanted to start wrestling my freshman year, but I broke my ankle,” Williams said. “My wrestling coach said to wait ’til I was healthy and fresh. He was a great coach; he wrestled at Chapel Hill and was a big influence on me.”

His personal patience and his former coach Robert McCarthy’s leadership benefitted him in the ring.

Williams took on Southern Virginia sophomore heavyweight JD Drasbek. The two men circled each other in the lion’s mouth of the Greensboro Pride floor mat, playing what might look to the ignorant like a game of smackfight.

With a smattering of impatience in his voice, Greensboro head coach Eric Wince yelled to Williams: “Be an athlete. Let’s go!”

But this low-contact sparring simply tests which wrestler will strike first. And when the match is truly on, it moves lightning-quick.

In the blink of an eye, Williams was on top of Drasbek, both squirming to stay in the fight. One would flop; the other would twist and roll to maintain the upper hand.

“Nice transition on top, Mykel!” Wince shouted as Williams halted such an attempt.

Williams wrestled through high school and first attended Limestone College in Gaffney, SC for its wrestling program. But he couldn’t afford tuition.

He then transferred to Greensboro College, ostensibly to study biology and play on the football team.

Then the college decided to establish a wrestling program.

“I thought, ‘Why stop this wrestling train now?’” Williams said. “It was a good decision for both them and me.”

Williams never quit applying the pressure on his opponent. The first few periods were hard-fought stalemates.

No matter: Wince still said, “Hey Mykel — good job,” to his man.

“He’s a super kid and a super athlete,” Wince said after the match. “He’s gotta find his mean streak. He’s capable of producing offensive points and he’s mean on top. He imposed his will on the other guy, and that’s the first time we’ve seen that in a while.”

Wince must have referred to the latter periods.

The penultimate one started with Williams rushing at Drasbek, forcing him tumbling out of the ring.

“Go get ’im, go get ’im, good!” Wince shouted.

Williams and Drasbek then faced off for a final round, another arduous crawl across the mat.

“Elbow forward; get on top of ’im!” Wince yelled. “Go back on top! Elevate it, pop it! Good.”

The black and green mass of their wrestling unitards wiggled like an inchworm around the inside of the ring.

“Keep workin’, guys, keep workin’,” the referee said. “Get something out of it.”

Williams didn’t seem to pay the ref much mind. He just kept doing his thing, halting Drasbek from gaining an edge.

“I’m learning a lot about myself and wrestling here,” Williams said later. “Wrestling has taught me mental and physical toughness in dire situations.

“Last match [against Ferrum College], we didn’t win,” Williams continued, “but I stayed strong. I knew I had to keep fighting ’til the end and never give up the match.”

Williams never gave up on this night, either.

“You got one minute; make it a good one,” Wince told Williams. “Keep it simple; make it a good one.”

That Williams did.

With Drasbek on his belly, basically powerless, Williams kept accumulating points and halting any addition to Southern Virginia’s tally.

“You got 20 seconds,” Southern Virginia Head Coach Logan Davis tried to tell Drasbek. “Try to do something; roll him, roll ’im!”

All in vain. Williams didn’t flinch.

The judges scored the match in Williams’ favor, leading Greensboro College to a tight win.

Williams hopes to use his education in biology at Greensboro College to pursue a medical degree, either operating as a general physician or entering sports medicine.

“There’s no concentration for pre-med here, but that’d be it,” Williams said.

If he maintains the toughness, mental acuity and patience he’s learning from pounding the mat at Greensboro College, he’ll have no trouble achieving whatever he wants in the real world and with this fledgling wrestling team.

All he needs to do is impose his will.