Tue | Oct 16, 2018

'CROC' wrestling out of hardship

Published:Saturday | December 20, 2014 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams


TALL, BIG, muscular, he is solidly built for combat, and all his life, Ackeme 'Croc' Powell of Tranquility, Portland, has been wrestling with hardship.

Now 18, and out of school with some Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects, he is ready to conquer the world and poverty, through the sport of wrestling.

The graduate of Buff Bay High School, in the said parish, used to throw shot put and discus for his alma mater, which he represented at the annual Eastern Track and Field Championships, where he has won two silver medals in shot put. Powell studied business and the sciences, but since high school, his life has seemed to be on hold.

Then, enter Kevin Wallen, the president of the Jamaica Wrestling Association, who has established a wrestling camp and training centre in the summer at Charles Town, Portland. The centre is now preparing youngsters for national and possible international competitions.

competitive instinct enlivened

It was by chance that Powell was told by one of the wrestlers in the summer camp about what was happening. He said he was pleasantly surprised by the revelation and went to see for himself. He liked what he saw, his competitive instinct was enlivened, and he would go back from time to time.

Powell said wrestling was not new to him, because in high school, he would wrestle with his peers, and as youngsters, they would wrestle one another atop huge river stones in a game called 'king of the rock'. The essence was to push all-comers into the river. The only person who remained atop the stone was crowned 'King of the Rock'.

"Long time it (wrestling) inna wi blood, but we never get the real introduction to it until Kevin come along and put some rules and technique to it," the youth with the fighting spirit of a croc, told Rural Xpress recently.

Since September, Powell has started full-time training, and he is now one of the top and promising wrestlers in the programme at Charles Town, a team leader of sorts. With his physical ability, academic achievements, commitment, and leadership qualities, Wallen said Powell is the "most promising" of the young wrestlers.

And in October, a head coach, Joseph Pistone, from the University of Southern Maine (USM), who was the only one to respond to an international appeal for assistance, visited the initiative at Charles Town, where he shared his expertise in a three-day clinic and donated wrestling gear. Pistone was impressed with Powell's potential, and Powell was moved to ask Pistone about the possibility of joining the wrestling programme at USM.

It turned out that Pistone encouraged and helped Powell to apply to the university for admittance. He got accepted to pursue a four-year course in computer sciences. However, because of his international status, he wasn't offered a scholarship. Thus, he had to defer his matriculation to January 2015.

raising funds

Coach Wallen said though Powell didn't get a scholarship per se, the opportunity means too much to Powell and the community for him to miss out, so with the efforts of their partners, including the Jamaica Wrestling Federation, funds are currently being raised to get Powell to USM. "It's too important [for him] not to go," Wallen said.

Powell is convinced that joining the wrestling programme at USM would be a great opportunity for him, and he said he really wanted to take up the offer. He said he would like to make an impression on the international wrestling stage and sees himself representing Jamaica in the Olympics six years from now. That is the "vision", Powell said, while hoping a sponsor will slide in to help him wrestle out of his challenging circumstances.

He's looking forward to his tenure at USM as he loves to explore new cultures and to learn new things. Powell said he is mentally and physically prepared for the possible changes to his life. Heavily motivated by Wallen's own story of overcoming challenges, he said, "Mi know say it's gonna be a rough road, but mi ready fi it."