The days that followed Jha’Quan Anderson’s 6-5 loss to Mountain View’s Garrett Spikes in the 170-pound state championship bout was a mixed bag of emotions for the Rockdale County senior.
Anderson’s dream of winning a Class AAAAAAA state championship fell short for the second year in a row at the Macon Centreplex. Outside of having to get up and go to work the next day, all the senior wanted to do was keep to himself and not think back on what could have been.
“That match is really hurtful to look back at,” Anderson said. “I watched it back twice in full length and I almost cried both times, again. It’s really upsetting just because I know how much work I put in through the whole season. To come up short by one point, it’s crazy.”
Looking back, Anderson said the match was there for the taking.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Anderson said. “What happened was Spikes just got the better of me. I was tired in the first period. I was taking the same shots in the third period. I shot like 20 doubles, at least. I didn’t switch it up and wasn’t faking enough.
“It was really just repetitive things that I was doing. There were little minor tweaks that could have been made in the match that could have won it for me.”
Having been around Spikes for the past two years, Anderson said that if he was going to lose to anyone, Spikes would be the one.
“I’m glad that my last high school match was against Spikes,” Anderson said. “Spikes is a really tough competitor. We’ve wrestled three times now. I beat him twice and he beat me when it mattered. He’s a tough kid and I can see him winning it again next year. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
While the initial shock of losing hurt, Anderson said he received an overwhelming amount of texts and calls letting him know that everything was going to be alright.
“My phone was really blowing up,” Anderson said. “People were telling me that it was OK. Coaches were hitting me up and telling me to get back at it. College coaches were telling me the same thing. I got so many condolences from everybody and it was awesome because I realized how much support I actually had behind me.”
Despite falling short, Anderson’s senior season was nothing shy of tremendous. Competing at both 170 and 182 pounds, Anderson ended his season with a 45-2 record and was an in-county champion, an East Metro champion, a Region 8 champion, a sectionals champion and a state runner-up.
Anderson’s 2019 achievements are the best since Rockdale’s Alonzo Allen won a state championship in 2014.
Looking back, Anderson said that he never would have imagined reaching the level he’s currently at, one that has him set up to wrestle at the collegiate level for the next four years.
“No, not really,” Anderson said. “I really didn’t because coming into high school, track and field was my main thing. I felt like I was a really good middle school track star and was just wrestling because it was fun. Wrestling ended up being my niche coming into my 10th-grade year.”
“I never thought it would be like this. I thought track would be my thing, but turns out that I fell out with track and fell in love with wrestling.”
The list of colleges interested in Anderson’s services is quite long. He heard from programs at several different collegiate levels, including NCAA Division I and Division II. Anderson listed UNC Pembroke, Gardner-Webb, Newberry and Coker College as his top four choices.
When it comes down to selecting one, Anderson said he isn’t sure which path he’s ready to go down just yet.
“It’s more stressful than anything,” Anderson said. “They’re all making really great offers. I’m just trying to figure out which school will be the best one for me and where I can see myself at. What’s most important to my mom is, where am I going to be laying my head at? I’m really ready to make my decision, get it over with and just chill.”
An estimated decision date is set for sometime in April. Once he makes his decison, Anderson said he’s got a few things he’s looking forward to once he steps foot on campus next fall.
“What I’m mainly going to be looking forward to is the practice room,” Anderson said. “The practice room is where all the competiton happens and is where all the blood, sweat and tears happen. Guys get broken and mentally question whether they want to do this or more. Is this for me? But what you don’t realize is that you’re getting better.”
“I’m also looking forward to the teammates that I’m going to have. With the upperclassmen that will be there, I just want to learn under their leadership and learn about the college life and college wrestling.”
Having only wrestled at a high level for three years, Anderson said the sky is the limit for his future.
“I know I haven’t reached my full potential yet,” Anderson said. “A lot of things can be tweaked. I’m not as strong as I need to be yet. I don’t have enough endurance, and mainly, that’s it. Once I get my endurance up, I feel like I will reach my full potential. Going into college will really help that with the weight training that they do, the cardio that they do and just going live with guys that are way better than you.”
While his days are starting to wind down at Rockdale, Anderson said there are quite a few things he’s going to miss, including the bonds he was able to build with his fellow teammates.
“The biggest thing that I’m going to miss about this team is the family part that we had in it,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, we’ll all stick together once we go off to college. We all need to stay in contact.”
Anderson said he still remembers the long trips to Wendy’s and other fast-food restauratns where they would spend hours cutting up and enjoying each other’s company.
Getting a chance to compete with his teammates in practice and watching them grow is another thing Anderson said he will cherish as he moves on to his next journey.
“Watching someone succeed is great,” Anderson said. “If you don’t have fun seeing someone succeed, then something is wrong with you. Watching my boy Kaleb (Walley) take sixth his 10th-grade year at state was something that I was really proud of. I saw myself when he was wrestling out there.”
“I placed fifth my sophomore year, so I was telling myself that he was going to do something. Training with these guys and getting them to a higher level is something that we all look to do here.”
Even though Anderson wasn’t able to get his name placed on the wall inside the Rockdale wrestling room, one that lists all of the previous state champions the program has had, the senior said he hopes his name will live on and be a motivator for the wrestlers that come after him.
“I think the the kids here know that I gave my all at Rockdale,” Anderson said. “I feel like even though my name isn’t on that wall, my name will still echo around this wrestling room. I hope the kids returning will push themselves. And that’s all that I really wanted to do, to leave a legacy. It’s been a great four years here at Rockdale.”