When J.L. Mayo thinks about the first time he stepped foot in the Brawley wrestling room, he remembers the uncertainty of how it was all going to pan out.
Mayo took a chance on wrestling mostly because his friends were doing it. Now he finds himself competing at the collegiate level as a freshman for Northwestern College in Iowa.
“I started wrestling in like eighth grade and the main reasons why I joined were because my friends were doing it and I was never really good with coordination sports,” the 18-year-old Mayo said. “It was fun at first but then it started to turn into something of a passion to me.”
A passion it definitely became as in Mayo’s first season in junior wrestling he won seven matches. In the following year as a freshman he was able to put together a 54-4 record.
“I really started to enjoy it and every day I wanted to get better in some way,” Mayo said. “I started working with the older guys and then I started to get the feeling I could have a college career in this.”
Mayo was a team captain for Brawley Union High as a senior with big expectations for himself and for colleges.
“In my sophomore and junior seasons I got hurt and wasn’t able to do what I wanted, so that just made my senior year more important,” Mayo said. “I wanted to place in state but I ended up choking pretty bad and in a way I thought that was it, that no college would want me.”
“Northwestern didn’t give up on me because of one tournament and that meant a lot to me so I signed with them,” he said.
This season Mayo is wrestling in the 141-pound weight class as a true freshman for the Red Raiders and is getting better with every tournament.
“Since day one it’s been tough. The first tournament I wrestled in I went 0-2 and got pinned twice but I think I’m only learning from things as I go,” Mayo said. “You can’t be lazy at this level and there are just so many things you have to do and get better at. You have to always be evolving as a wrestler, and all I’m doing is putting in that hard work to get better every day.”
After two not-so-stellar tournaments, Mayo was able to place in his first collegiate tournament, placing eighth to qualify him for the NAIA National tournament in March.
“Right now I think I’m getting valuable experience whether I’m winning or losing, but the most important thing I’m learning is to not give up on myself,” Mayo said. “When I look back and see how in high school it was easy to slack off and mess around, I think of what I wasted in that time because now I know it’s the hard work that you put in that gets you places. Right now I’m putting in the hours and hours of work to be the best and it’s paying off.”