MOREHEAD CITY — J.T. Lawrence’s fledgling wrestling career has been marked by surprises.
He didn’t expect to go 23-11 in his freshman campaign, and he certainly didn’t imagine starting this season with a 14-2 record.
“Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this,” the East Carteret sophomore said. “I think it’s going pretty good. I just hope it stays this way.”
Lawrence has lost to just one wrestler this season – last week’s News-Times Student-Athlete of the Week, West Carteret’s Jacob Bennett (14-0).
The West junior pinned Lawrence in 1:01 in the 132-pound semifinal at the Patriots’ Beach Brawl and then pinned Lawrence again this past weekend in the 132-pound semifinal in 1:51 at New Bern’s Swiss Bear.
“I’ve beat everybody but him so far,” Lawrence said. “He’s a respectable opponent. I’m going to try and base my next few matches with him to see where I am. He’s definitely really good. I almost caught him this last match.”
Lawrence went on to place third in each tournament – he failed to place at any competition as a freshman.
He pinned First Flight’s Blake Francis in 1:35 in the third-place match at the Beach Brawl and then shared the third-place medal with Eh Neysoe Jaw via double forfeit after the New Bern wrestler met his five-match limit for the day. Lawrence pinned Neysoe Jaw in 2:46 in the quarterfinal.
“I was real happy with those finishes,” Lawrence said. “At these recent tournaments, I really wanted to place. Last year, I didn’t do so good at those.”
Like Bennett, Lawrence was one match away from qualifying for the state tournament last season. He was pinned in 2:57 in the 1A east regional consolation semifinal by South Stanly’s Hunter Barrier.
“I was one match away from states,” Lawrence said. “That is the match that is pushing me now.”
Spurred by his loss in that match, he went to summer wrestling camps in Ohio and Virginia and also visited a few offseason tournaments.
“I took wrestling really serious this summer,” he said. “My conditioning is definitely a lot better, and so is my work ethic in the wrestling room. I tried to improve my strength a lot this summer.”
His improvement has him readjusting his goals. He initially wanted to win a state championship before he graduated. And now he’s thinking more immediate.
“It was a high school goal, but now I think it is becoming more of a goal for this year,” he said.
Lawrence started wrestling in middle school, but he reported it didn’t go so well.
“It wasn’t the best,” he said. “I was alright, but the other schools had some good guys.”
He started as a freshman at East and got better as the season went on, finishing fourth at the conference tournament and then getting within one match of qualifying for the state tournament.
“I was pretty satisfied with it,” he said. “It definitely could have been better, though.”
Lawrence noted he started thinking about wrestling at the next level after last year’s regional tournament where he went 3-2.
“I was really scared about that tournament, but I beat some guys I really didn’t think I was going to beat,” he said. “I surprised myself. I really want to continue wrestling farther than high school. At the end of last season, I started thinking about that.”
Lawrence won’t have any problems qualifying academically for college. He sports a 4.25 GPA.
“I shoot for A’s,” he said. “I’m thinking about something environmental in college. I like that kind of science. I’ve been thinking about that for about a year now.”
Here are a few of Lawrence’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Creed 2.”
Favorite TV Show: “The Office.”
Favorite Cartoon: “Family Guy.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Beach Boys.
Favorite Song: “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix.
Favorite Book: Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks.
Favorite Team: Penn State wrestling.
Favorite Athlete: Nate Diaz.
Favorite Vacation: Bahamas.
Favorite Hobby: Cooking.
Favorite Subject: Spanish.
Favorite Quote: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert H. Schuller.
Favorite Food: I’m vegan, and so beyond meat.
Favorite Drink: Setlzer.
Favorite Restaurant: Indochine.
Favorite Season: Winter.
Favorite Sports Memory: Winning my first wrestling match.
Favorite Teacher: Mr. Tanner Lynk and Mr. Antonio Diaz.
Favorite Sport: Wrestling.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Making healthy smoothies.
Favorite Website/App: FloWrestling.
Favorite Follow on Twitter/Instagram: Nimai Delgado.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: My brother, mother, father, Ronan Carletta and Alex Ahmed.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Jathan Parker, Alex Ahmed, Ronan Carletta, Shane Hatfield, Jack McMahon and coach Dan Varner.
Items For A Deserted Island: Flare, multi-tool, flashlight, MREs and music.