By Rubin E. Grant
When D’Angelo Dewitt began wrestling in the seventh grade at Bumpus Middle School, it was a way to channel some of his aggression.
“I got into my fair share of fights,” he said, “so when I saw the wrestling team at Bumpus, I thought that was something I could do.”
Little did he know that was the beginning of his journey to becoming a two-time state champion at Hoover.
Dewitt successfully defended his 2017 195-pound Class 7A title by defeating Bob Jones’ Harold Gilmore by major decision 10-2 last Saturday at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.
“It feels awesome to win again,” Dewitt said. “Going into the state finals last year, losing was my biggest fear, so I couldn’t imagine losing. Losing wouldn’t have felt right, especially since everybody expected me to do it again.”
Dewitt qualified for the state tournament as a freshman at 170 pounds and finished fourth at 182 pounds as a sophomore. As a junior, he finally reached the pinnacle.
“Last year was the first year everything came together for him,” Hoover wrestling coach Jacob Gaydosh said. “He’s always been a really good athlete, strong and quick. But a few times he had difficulty listening and taking coaching. But sometime last year, he started listening. He matured a lot.”
Gaydosh pointed to Dewitt’s 2017 championship match as a sign of his maturity. He won then in a 9-4 decision over Huntsville’s Jaeger Clark, who entered the match 55-2.
“The guy he beat in the state finals last year had beaten him during the year,” Gaydosh said. “But he went in with a game plan, with a strategy, and wrestled the way he needed.”
This season, Gaydosh put added responsibility on Dewitt to be a team leader. The Bucs had only three seniors on a team of 30 wrestlers and started four or five freshman whenever they took the mat.
“He did a really good job of taking guys under his wing, showing them how to practice and what to do on the mat in competition because there’s a big difference in high school and middle school,” Gaydosh said.
Dewitt embraced the role of team leader because that’s the way he views wrestling.
“It’s an individual sport, so you can’t blame anyone if you get beat,” Dewitt said. “But at the same time, it has a strong team aspect. If you don’t go out and do what you’re supposed to do, you’re hurting the team.
“As a leader, sometimes you have to make the hard decisions and tell them what they need to do, so you’re connecting with your teammates.”
Dewitt finished his senior season with a 46-2 record after posting a 35-3 mark in 2017. And now, he said, “I’m ready to go on to the next level.”
He plans to wrestle in college and perhaps join the Navy one day.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the military since I was young,” Dewitt said. “When I was younger, my favorite toy was a helicopter and I wanted to be a pilot. My dreams have changed over the years, but I still want to be in the military.
“The Navy is in the big picture, so I’m looking at schools with strong ROTC programs.”
Among those schools are Virginia Tech, Purdue and Auburn. He also has spoken to coaches from Castleton University, a NCAA Division III school in Vermont.
“I’ve got a plan of action, so I’m going to do my best to get into the Navy,” Dewitt said. ❖