CONYERS — Sometimes it takes an athlete at his lowest point to ignite a fire in one’s soul, ending one chapter and starting a new one in the process.
For Rockdale County wrestler Jha’Quan Anderson, that’s exactly what happened to the senior two years ago after losing in the state semifinals against Mill Creek’s Dorian Piekary by a narrow margin, ending his sophomore season with tears streaming down his face inside the arena.
It was from that point on that Anderson made a deal with himself that he would eat, sleep and breathe wrestling in efforts to never let a moment like that happen again.
“The moment I lost my sophmore year at the semifinals, that’s when I only wanted to wrestle,” Anderson said. “That was the year that I stopped playing football and I told myself, ‘That’s not happening again. I can’t lose by one point again.’ I quit playing football and made more time for wrestling.”
One of the first steps Anderson took was training on his own time outside of Rockdale County. Coach Ralph Yates approached a distraught Anderson after his semifinals match and told him that, if he wanted to get better, to come and train with him at his facility, Compound Wrestling in McDonough.
It was a no-brainer for Anderson to take him up on the offer.
“When I first went there, I was getting whooped,” Anderson said. “I didn’t know how to feel at all. As time went on, I started to get better and was able to compete with them. Not only did it show in that room, it showed in the practice room here and in the matches.”
After training all summer, Anderson returned for his junior season and instantly saw in improvement, rolling through match after match with first-place finishes attached to his name. This time, Anderson cruised through his semifinal match and reached the final, only to lose 6-2.
Now in his senior season, Anderson has only one thing on his mind — win a state championship.
“It’s really important to me to go out there and get that state title,” Anderson said. “Ever since my sophomore year, I’ve gotten closer and closer, but I’ve never gotten first. It would also be great just to bring Rockdale another state championship. We haven’t had one since Alonzo Allen in 2014. We’re in a drought and I want to be the one to end that and have my name on the wall with all of the state champions.”
So far in 2018, Anderson has lost only once. His 11-1 start to the season has his confidence at an all-time high.
“I feel like I’m the best wrestler and every time I step onto the mat, I feel like I’m better than my opponent,” Anderson said. “I’m more in shape, I’m stronger and can’t nobody stop my shot. That’s the mindset that I go in with every single match. It might sound cocky, but it’s just the confident attitude that you have to have in wrestling.”
Even when he’s not practicing, or competing in matches, wrestling is at the center of his attention.
“I eat, sleep and breathe wrestling,” Anderson said. “That’s just how it is. When I’m at home, I’m scrolling through Instagram and Twitter looking at wrestling moves. Sometimes I’ll see a move that is pretty cool and I’ll bookmark it to go try and practice it. I’ll also go on YouTube and look up some turns and some wrestling moves that I want to work on. I’m just always looking at wrestling stuff.”
When Anderson hangs it up after the season and takes his talents to the collegiate level, something he’s still weighing out all of his options on, he said he hopes to have left a lasting legacy that everyone associated with Rockdale County wrestling, past and present, will remember.
“Any wrestler that goes in our wrestling room, I want them to know the name Jha’Quan Anderson,” he said. “I want them to be like, ‘Oh man, I know that kid. He was the most recent state champion that we had here. That kid was such a beast.’ I want every wrestler here to push and strive as hard as I do, and even harder.”
Anderson said he plans on committing in April once the wrestling season is over.