The true test of character is how you handle going from high school wrestling superstar to getting your head handed to you at the next level.
Though Davion Jeffries (Muscogee Creek) showed up at the Oklahoma University wrestling room with a list of credentials that include high school All-American and a couple of state championships, he admits there was a lot more to learn.
“I wasn’t used to getting beat in the wrestling room, so the biggest challenge is to keep going,” Jeffries told ICTMN. “The coaches kept telling me to push through it, push through it. After taking a beating day after day, I had people telling me it gets better. I started buying in. I could tell I was getting better each day and it helped my confidence.”
Jeffries, a two-time Fargo National All-American and two-time Mid-America Nationals champion (Tulsa, Okla.) became the only freshman in the Sooner starting lineup. Jeffries is now 12-5, 9-2 Big 12 and a major contributor on the No. 7-ranked Oklahoma team.
“We thought he was ready, because of the high school career he had (126-9 overall). He’d beaten several of the top wrestlers in the country,” Sooner head coach Mark Cody told ICTMN. “We knew from his live wrestling in the room that he was capable of wrestling at a high level. But you never actually know until they step out there to compete.”
Jeffries has put together some impressive wins this year, including a 10-3 major decision over Wyoming’s Cole Mendenhall to help Oklahoma to a 21-16 victory on the road in Laramie. Jeffries also had a 11-1 major decision over Zachary Moore in the battle of nationally ranked teams in Morgantown, W. Va. No.9 Oklahoma held off No. 24 West Virginia 23-11.
“He seems to really be thriving on the pressure. When we walk into hostile environments with big crowds, he really seems to thrive on that,” Cody said. “It’s great to see his mindset and how comfortable he is out there. I think he’s capable of being a national champion and winning several titles as long as he keeps working.
Jeffries had won a couple of Class 5A state champion at Collinsville, Okla., wrestling at 126 pounds. Now he’s the 149-pounder in the Sooners’ lineup. “The key to winning at 149 is technique,” said Jeffries, who was also the 6A state runner-up at 126 pounds for Broken Arrow in 2014.
“A lot of guys rely on strength, but I use technique and better conditioning to outlast my opponents. It really helps to stay with what the coaches have taught me in the room, so it’s also about preparation.”
In addition to freshman Jeffries, The Sooners’ lineup has just one senior, 133-pounder Cody Brewer. But there are six Sooners in the national Intermat Rankings: No. 14 Ryan Millhof (125 pounds), No. 3 Cody Brewer (133), No. 13 Dylan Cottrell (157), No. 9 Clark Glass (165), No. 20 Matt Reed (174), No. 14 Ross Larson (heavyweight).
“I’m the only freshman there, so I’ve got to take the heat about that stuff,” said Jeffries with a laugh. “We’re family in the room, but they make all the freshmen set up the mats, keep ‘em clean, carry the gym bags. It’s just part of it and next year I’ll be the one that doesn’t have to do that stuff.”