Jemison High School’s champion wrestler overcomes hardships to make history

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Mae Jemison High School Wrestler Jailen Young just made school history as the first state champion on February 18.

"I was the first ever state champion in Mae Jemison's history, like athletically, no other sports team or individual's won a state championship," Young said.

It's a moment Young didn't foresee as a sophomore.

"I quit after a couple of practices," Young said. "I went through some academic struggles, I was going through some personal problems with my parents."

Young began facing challenges head on long before he faced opponents on a wrestling mat.

"I moved out of my home, you know, hoping to go and stay with my dad," Young explained. "I thought it was the best decision for me but I found myself bouncing from house to house. I found myself homeless, you know, getting in where I can stay."

Now, Young is surrounded by family despite those hardships at home.

"I haven't really had the closest relationship with my mom since I was one," Young said. "My dad's been dealing with his personal problems, in and out of jail, so he hasn't always been there. I had to rely on my grandparents. They've been raising me since I was young, since I believe birth, me and my sisters."

Young doesn't take the path of least resistance.

"That's what wrestling is -- a big lesson it has taught me is whatever you put into something is what you'll get out of it," Young said.

His sights aren't set on Jemison's High School mats any more, rather college. Young wants build a future focused on helping students just like him.

"This summer I was able to intern with Teach for America in Alabama," Young said. "It's a program that sent my teacher here and that's something I plan to do after college even though it's a pretty rough program to get into."

Young is the 106-pound 1A through 5A state champion. He will wrestle in the nationals in Virginia Beach in March. Then, he's hoping to go to Berea College in Kentucky after graduation.

This is Mae Jemison High's first year as a school. Many wrestling on the team wrestled at J.O. Johnson High School when the team restarted in 2014. Jemison's team placed fifth in the state with five place winners.

The last state champion for J.O. Johnson was Marlon Cole in 1989. Now, his son Marlon Jr. is a freshman wrestler at Jemison.