Atajio Ivy reflects on four years as a varsity wrestler

Pathfinder: When did you find the passion for wrestling?

Ivy: It’s a funny story. So, when I first got into wrestling, I didn’t think I was going to stay with it. I knew that my dad had wrestled and I kinda wanted some fighting skills. When I first started, I never thought that I would have that passion or that level of respect for the sport itself, but after freshmen year was over, I looked back at the pain, the sweat, the work that I put into that whole season, and I heard something that my coach said. He said, ‘Now that you’ve been through one season of wrestling you can do anything.’ Wrestling is a sport that takes mental, physical and emotional strength, and you have to be there the whole time.

Describe your growth in wrestling while being a varsity wrestler for four years?

So, a lot of people would think that at this point that I would be cocky since I’ve been on varsity since my freshman year, but it’s actually really humbling. During my freshman year, the only reason I got onto varsity was because one of our athletes got injured. Me being on varsity freshman year exposed me to a lot of different wrestlers and also showed me how to compete against the more experienced wrestlers. It was humbling because I got my butt handed to me, and not a lot of people realize that I got beat up bad. By sophomore year, we had started to increase our level of skill; we knew the type of competitors we were facing, so I appreciated the fact that we were thrown into the varsity team freshmen year. It gave us a little oversight of what was to come the following year. It gave me a chance to increase my level of knowledge and passion for the sport.

What were your initial thoughts going into the wrestling season?

This season I was excited to see who would be captains, because ever since freshman year it’s been one of my dreams, and one of my goals, to become captain of the team.

Did you become captain?

Yes, me and Josh [McCallister] are co-captains. I was excited to see the new wrestlers and the skill levels that they came into the program with and the passion behind some of them.

How many new wrestlers are there this season?

Most of the team is actually new competitors. We had a good amount that were veterans, but a lot of them are freshman or sophomores that were new.

Has it always been this way?

Kinda. When Josh and I first started, it was a bunch of seniors, and freshmen and sophomores. It was like 10 of us and now the program is around 30 more or less.

Does the increase in teammates motivate you and encourage you to do better?

It pushes me to be a better wrestler because now that I am one of the captains, those younger wrestlers, new wrestlers, look to me and Josh, and other veteran wrestlers to see how they could improve themselves and how they should be applying themselves in practices, meets and in competition. It definitely pushes me to be better.

What is your role as co-captain of the team? Is it more of the teacher rather than the student or is it a bit of both?

You can always learn. Always. There are always opportunities to learn more. Most people don’t know that the first two years that I was wrestling, I had a different coach. Now that the program has shifted to a different head coach, he has other moves that he would like to go over, and I’m always open to moves and open to new concepts of wrestling. I teach the younger wrestlers. If they are having trouble, and the coaches are coaching, I’ll go over there and help them out. Josh does the same thing. It’s kinda in the title of ‘captain,’ you have to be there for your teammates, look after them, teach them and guide them.

Describe some difference between this season versus last season.

Well, one major difference was that last year I was ineligible for about three out of the four months because of grades, so I didn’t get a lot of wrestling time. Besides that, I would say the biggest difference is that I feel a little more selfless and my goals have kinda shifted. My number one goal used to be going to state and I can honestly say that my number one goal now was to help my teammates, realize their potential, realize their own passion for the sport and help them be better not only as wrestlers but as people.

Do you have any plans for wrestling in college with this being your senior year?

I have been thinking about going to Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville. I might wrestle, it just depends. Most scouts look out for wrestlers during state, and so it’s just a matter of how much they are offering to give me. It’s a high chance that I am gonna try out, but I’m not sure yet if I am gonna pursue my wrestling career in college.

Is there any lasting advice that you want to leave behind for future wrestlers?

All of us feel like we should’ve started this a long time ago. I can’t help the past, but I can help the future. To all the younger wrestlers, I would say do something in the offseason. Even if you are doing another sport, just do something in the off-season. Continuously make yourself better so that your future can burn brighter.