It was a special moment for J.R. Sweezy
. The Mooresville (NC) senior had just won the state 3A wrestling title, and after the victory he let out a huge roar.
"I can't describe how I felt after I knew I won," said Sweezy. "I had never made it to states before this year... I would always get beat in regionals. As a senior, I just worked harder and got bigger, faster, and stronger. It all paid off for me.
"It was great. I don't really know how to explain it. There had only been five at Mooresville to win state titles, and I am the first in a while. It means a lot to have my name up there with them."
"As a coach, those are the moments you cherish," said Barclay Marsh, Sweezy's head football coach. "It's a great feeling as a high school coach when you see one of your kids succeed in the manner that J.R. did. He has such a competitive drive, and he will not be outworked."
Sweezy's competitiveness and intensity made up for the bulk he lacked on the wrestling mat. After starting his senior season on the gridiron at 250 pounds, Sweezy's weight dipped to 230 by the end of the season. With the grueling wrestling practices, Sweezy would take the mat at each match weighing between 220 and 230 pounds, routinely facing heavyweights who generally maxed out at the allotted 285-pound weight limit.
"The guys I went against were always heavier than me, but I think I had some advantages on them too," said Sweezy. "It was probably tougher on them that at my height I was able to use really good leverage and my quickness."
"J.R. is physically strong, and he is an extremely competitive young man, but J.R. is not your typical heavyweight," said Marsh. "With that being said, at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he was still a physical specimen even after losing the weight he did. He's built like a linebacker, and he would just go out there and attack people. His natural athleticism, strength, and footspeed was too much for the other heavyweights he faced."
Sweezy's wrestling title followed a football season where he might have been the most productive defensive player in the state. Playing outside linebacker for the Blue Devils, Sweezy tallied an amazing 195 tackles, six sacks, 14 tackles for loss and four fumble recoveries in 2006. He earned all-area and all-region honors for his efforts.
Marsh was impressed with Sweezy's play, but also the leadership he provided.
"J.R. played up to the expectations that we had of him," said Marsh. "Frankly, we felt he was one of the top performers in our area, there is no doubt about that.
"He played with a great deal of confidence, and I thought he had an excellent senior season in terms of being a leader. I think he inspired other team members through his play... not just his words, but with the way he left it all on the football. It's really rare to have a player that most of your players look up to in high school, and I think our players looked up to J.R."
Because Sweezy has played linebacker his entire high school career, he will give NC State an intriguing option on the edge. The Wolfpack could use him as a traditional defensive end or as an outside linebacker.
"I actually talked with [defensive line coach Keith] Willis a couple of days ago," said Sweezy. "I like him a lot. He said he likes how I played on film as a standup linebacker. I think they like me playing down as a defensive end or standing up where they can drop me back into coverage. I would like that. I've played linebacker my whole career, and I don't think I would have a problem playing either outside linebacker or defensive end."
J.R. Sweezy celebrates after winning the state 3A wrestling title. (Gary Eller)
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