John Sawyer rarely saw his hand raised in South Dakota. Victories were hard to come by for the grappler in a state where wrestling mats often overshadow basketball courts.
But since moving to Washington and wrestling for Mark Morris, the senior has seen plenty of wins come his way.
“You never know what their ceiling is when they have some experience,” MM coach Jeremy Baxter said. “We still don’t know his potential, because he’s improving so quickly.”
Sawyer admits that while South Dakota tends to be a more arduous path for wrestlers, he’d be much improved if he went back now.
He dedicated himself to the weight room this summer and since arriving in the Evergreen State to live with his mother, Blair, he’s improved by leaps and bounds.
“I wasn’t in very good shape in South Dakota,” Sawyer said. “If I went back, I’d do a lot better.”
His desire to improve on the mats is why Baxter and the Monarchs believe the senior can make it to state in the 126-pound class. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but early results indicate he’s more than apt to do so.
“He just needs to follow through, and start connecting his moves,” Baxter said. “That’s what it will take to get him to the next level, to get to state.”
Off the mats, Sawyer has fit right in to Mark Morris — “there’s not many bad people here,” he says — and the significant transition has gone seamlessly.
Still, he hints at the challenges in a brief conversation. His father, and namesake, got him into wrestling his sophomore year in South Dakota.
Now they don’t talk.
“I just want to show him I can do it, I guess,” Sawyer says of what drives him in the sport.
Coach Baxter has seen this plenty in wrestling. Kids often can use the sport to deal with difficult circumstances.
“It just gives him an outlet to be a kid and socialize,” Baxter said. “And they can find people to potentially be father figures or mother figures. That’s something that happens a lot especially for kids that don’t have it in their lives. They can see it in a coach or another kid that’s able to show them the right path.”
And so far, Baxter has seen Sawyer excel on and off the mat.
“I think he’s been able to let down his walls and make himself vulnerable,” Baxter said. “It’s his first year here and it seems like I’ve known him quite some time.”