Jacob Stevens mops mats, coaches from the bench during junior varsity matches and washes towels.
And he wins state championships.
The Soddy-Daisy High School senior wrestler will be gunning for his third state title three weeks from now, and no one is more deserving, according to Trojans coach Jim Higgins.
"He's the consummate teammate," Higgins said. "There's an unspoken guarantee that you're going to get every single bit of him for however long he's out there wrestling. But it doesn't end there. He's a mentor, and the pride he has taken in passing the torch has made us proud.
"He puts a lot into developing his practice partners, and he loves the team and the program."
Stevens says he is just passing along what he has learned from Higgins, former coach Steve Henry and ex-wrestling partner Campbell Lewis, now a freshman at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"Higgins is like a best friend. He and I think alike. Both of us hate to lose," Stevens said. "Campbell spent a lot of time every day teaching me, and Coach Henry? He always seems to know the answers to all of my questions."
A four-year starter who has grown into Soddy-Daisy mainstay status, the 120-pounder placed sixth in the state tournament as a freshman before winning titles the past two seasons.
He loves the sport because of the competition and a burning desire to see who's best. But with that desire comes a big target and the pressure to continue at a championship level.
"Everyone wants to beat me, but I think it's more fun that way," he said. "There's pressure but not that much, because I expect to win."
Stevens has used the sport to his self-betterment in other ways.
"Wrestling has taught me a lot. It has made me what I am today," he said. "You learn to work hard on and off the mat."
And he coupled that with a highly competitive spirit and the self-discipline to shun french fries, his favorite food, and to avoid Krispy Kreme, which for him is the ultimate snack, dessert or even meal.
"Jacob has that little thing inside of him that a lot of kids don't have. He refuses to lose," Higgins offered. "I think he has gained fans over the years, especially in the state tournament last year, based on his approach and, beyond that, how technical and dominating his performances have been."
Higgins thinks Stevens has made the wrestling program and the community a better place.
"There aren't many three-time medalists who come early and stay late, that wash towels and mop mats," the coach said. "The world is full of competition, and if you're weak-minded it will eat you alive. I don't worry about Jacob."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...
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