JACKSON TWP. Braxton Freeman, double agent.
Freeman, one of the top wrestlers for the Jackson Polar Bears over the past three seasons, is firmly entrenched in purple and gold, but prior to coming to Jackson, he was a student at a certain rival school wearing black and orange.
The lanky senior began his high school wrestling career at Hoover, moving to Jackson prior to his sophomore year.
Freeman, who began the season 11-2, still hears the occasional joke from his teammates about where his loyalties lie.
“That’s always a joke that's used around with my teammates, even though they know I’m all Jackson,” Freeman said. “It comes up usually around the Hoover Holiday Tournament. I went to middle school at Hoover and then my freshman season, but since I came here, I got used to the system and I love the coaching.”
The move to Jackson came in a situation Freeman termed “accidental,” as the family’s landlord didn’t want them to move, but by the time everyone realized what had happened, the move had already taken place. Moving to a new district, wrestling helped make the move easier and watching Freeman at practice with his teammates, it’s clear he’s found a place he fits well.
After starting the season considering wrestling at 172 pounds, he’s settled in at 160 and with the team in the midst of tournament season - rounded out by plenty of invitationals and other big meets - now is a time to test himself against some of the best in the area.
“This is the best part of the (regular) season; it shows you how districts and states will be like, going against the hardest competition instead of easier ones, so it does develop your skills,” Freeman said.
With 11 wins in his first 13 matches, Freeman finds himself right where he wants to be. The Christmas break may not end up as much of a break for high school athletes who still have games and practices during their time off school, but having two weeks to sleep in a bit later and relax more is one the senior grappler appreciates.
Being able to rest and recuperate from the team’s recent big matches is a welcome opportunity for a wrestler with an eye on making a trip to the state tournament in a couple months.
“It’s (the season) going pretty well, even though there’s a lot more to get done before the postseason,” Freeman said. “You want to work on polishing your skills, perfecting your craft and wrestling the best people you can.”
Another element of the season for Freeman is trying to be a leader for his younger teammates, a role he’s grown into during the past three seasons. Although wrestling is a hybrid of an individual sport and a team sport, his mindset is one of pushing everyone to focus on their individual goals and chase them with full enthusiasm.
In order to get to those goals, especially in a Federal League that has proven to turn out some of the area’s best wrestlers over the years, Freeman specifically focuses on making sure that everyone thinks positively and believe that their goals are within reach.
“All of that negative energy, I want to take it out of there,” Freeman said.
Four years ago, the idea of donning Jackson purple and gold would have seemed totally implausible for Freeman. Now, as he goes through the final season of his high school wrestling career, he can’t imagine himself anywhere else.
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