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Quick on the takedown

Undefeated Sickles wrestler Jegan Gabbidon is fast in destabilizing opponents and is just as sharp academically.

By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002


CITRUS PARK -- Fewer than a dozen wrestlers in Hillsborough County enter the last half of the season undefeated.

Sickles junior Jegan Gabbidon is one of that elite group. Although the 130-pounder has a tough weekend ahead, his 12-0 record includes tournament championships in the American division of the Western Conference and the Cougar Invitational Classic.

The 16-year-old hopes he stays undefeated all the way to the state championship finals.

Although Gabbidon recorded a 26-6 record as a sophomore, he never made it out of districts. After last season he joined the Guardian Wrestling Club formed by Sickles coach Terry Brockland, and competed in about 150 matches in USA Wrestling tournaments.

"Jegan came here last year with a lot of basic skills, but needed to polish his talent and develop strength," Brockland said. "Because he is so quick, he has excellent takedown moves and scores a lot of points taking down and releasing. But he has been working on building strength and stamina, which will improve his chances of becoming a state qualifier or even a state contender."

So far this season, Gabbidon said his toughest challenges were from Alex Enriques of Jesuit in the Durant Christmas Classic and Chamberlain's Richard Persaud in the American division tournament last Saturday.

Enriques has earned three national championships in USA Wrestling youth competition and placed second in the state last year at 103 and Persaud is a returning state qualifier for the Chiefs.

Gabbidon has only four pins in his record. He works better on his feet -- many of his victories come from high scores, such as the 20-16 decision over Persaud. He is very good at taking opponents off their feet, but said he needs to work on pinning combinations, also known as tilts. He also continues to build his stamina to be better prepared for the state run which begins with the district tournament Feb. 9.

"I don't stop training with just team practice," Gabbidon said. "Before school each morning and after practice each evening, I run 15 to 20 minutes. When we start the state run with the district tournament, there are no easy matches and it gets tougher all the way to state."

Academics are also important to the West Tampa teen. No matter where wrestling leads him, he intends to go to college.

"Science is my favorite subject and I make mostly As and Bs overall," he said. "I hope to some day be a doctor and work in the area of neurology.

"When I am not studying or training, I like to listen to music, hang with my friends and go to good movies," Gabbidon said.

Brockland thinks his young wrestler has a good chance to make it to the state tournament this year.

"Jegan is a great young man and very talented," Brockland said. "I would love to have a few more like him. He absorbs knowledge and learns more every day . . . I think he can only get better and win more."

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