Though both are relatively new to wrestling, it didn’t take long for Augusta Christian seniors Alex Strother and Jabari Odom to reach the pinnacle of their sport.
On Feb. 4, Strother and Odom won state titles at the South Carolina Independent School Association Wrestling Championships in Orangeburg, S.C.
Both had to lose weight before the competition, and doing so paid dividends. Strother, a three-year wrestler, and Odom, who has been on the mat for four years, started the year a weight class above where they eventually became champions.
Strother lost his first five matches at 182 pounds, dropped a class and reeled off 18 consecutive wins.
“You majorly watched what you ate,” he said of his efforts to drop pounds. “Going from football to wrestling was switching from buffets to salads.”
Wrestling coach Joel Lowe has seen Strother develop since he started wrestling his sophomore year to augment his offseason training for football.
“When I first got him, he was uncoordinated and couldn’t run,” Lowe said. “It just shows how great a sport this is. You can take anybody who has heart and turn him into a champion.”
Odom, who is in his first year at the school, started wrestling as a freshman.
“I figured I’d try something different and try something I never thought about,” he said. “Why not wrestling?”
Wrestling fit Odom’s personality, as he has played football since he was 9 and always preferred sports that had contact.
He credits what was done in practice for his success at the tournament.
“We wrestle everyone, and that helps because we all have a unique style,” Odom said. “You don’t get stuck in a rut when you wrestle all types.”
Odom has been looking at Gardner Webb and Liberty as potential colleges where he could play football.
For all his aggression in athletics, he wants to be a healer – planning to major in nursing, then going on to be a nurse practitioner.
Strother, who climbed weight classes each year, took fourth and then third in his first two years at state. He was intent on finishing at the top.
“I was determined,” he said. “I had to prove to myself that I was better than third or fourth those past two years.”
The athletes’ intensity helped both of them, Lowe said.
“They both set goals to be the best,” he said. “Then they went out and accomplished it.”
While looking at other schools, Strother is debating accepting a scholarship from Hartwick College, a small liberal arts school in Oneonta, N.Y. He would like to study technical and mechanical engineering but is keeping his avenue to athletics open; becoming a college football coach is his second choice.