Documentary on J.O. Johnson High School wrestlers brings attention to the struggles of north Huntsville residents

Documentary on J.O. Johnson High School wrestlers brings attention to the struggles of north Huntsville residents

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A group of Huntsville wrestlers hung up their boots and grabbed the popcorn this evening to watch themselves in a documentary titled “Wrestle.”

WAFF 48′s Jenna Rae spoke with the wrestlers, their coach, and family members about their experience growing up here in the Tennessee Valley.

The documentary follows four J.O. Johnson High School wrestlers: Jailen Young, Jaquan Rhodes, Jamario Rowe, and Matthew Teague Berres and their coach, Chris Scribner.

“Nothing felt different until I got out into the real world and was like, ‘Wow, I’m living a rough life,'” Young said. He said he never knew he was living in poverty in north Huntsville.

For Young, everyday life also meant wrestling. But it wasn’t just about the sport.

“That’s just a metaphor for a bunch of things that we wrestle with. We wrestle with everyday life, then police, things in our neighborhood, poverty," Young said. "So for those four main characters, for us four main characters, we’re just wrestling through life.”

“For me, I didn’t want to go to college at first. I did CAP and GOWN, and went to college,” Rhodes said. CAP and GOWN is a non-profit program that helps high school students with ACT tutoring, college tours, and other post-high school prep.

The program started a few years ago when a group of J.O. Johnson High School students visited Vanderbilt University.

“We ended up filling the bus full of students and for like months after that field trip the students were talking about it. So, then after the next four years we did another 150 college tours through the CAP and GOWN project," Scribner said.

Scribner played a crucial role in all four of the boys high school careers.

“A lot of educators fill in kind of familial roles or kind of just have to act as bus drivers, sometimes college guidance counselors, teachers have to fill a number of roles," Scribner said.

The wrestlers say Scribner did just that.

“When we get to the mat, and get in our room together, with us, we’re not only talking about wrestling and who we’re coming to matches against, who we going to go against," Rowe said. "It’s more talking about what we going through, how we doing, let me know exactly what you’re going through. If you’re going through it, I can help.”

And they say, that kind of guidance really did help.

“It’s definitely made me learn a lot, so Monday I’m going to Calhoun to sign up for my G.E.D.,” Teague Berres said.

Wrestling prepared these men for a G.E.D., college classes, and even to serve our country. Rhodes says he’s going to serve in the Navy.

“I feel like I can do pretty much anything. I went through a month long camp in Fargo, and it was very tough, so I feel like just doing that I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to," Rhodes said.

UPDATE: The movie is now playing at the AMC Classic 10 in Huntsville through March 20th. It was scheduled to play through March 14th, but director Suzannah Herbert tells us, “Wrestle” did so well in its opening weekend that the theater extended the showings. The movie will also be available on PBS this coming may.

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