By Eric Sisson
After sitting out his first year with the UTC wrestling program due to a redshirt, Liburn, Ga. native Kamaal Shakur is ready to have an impact for the Mocs.
While sitting out your first year on campus is sometimes tough, it benefited Shakur greatly. It allowed him to get a feel for the differences between high school and college as well as take care of some nagging injuries.
“Last year coming into the season, I got hit with a couple of injuries so that kind of forced the redshirt,” Shakur said. “But it was good because the transition from high school wrestling to college wrestling is pretty brutal. That kind of bye year is good to get some experience.”
Shakur says the mental aspect of the game as well as the matwork is the biggest and most glaring difference from the high school ranks.
“The mindset and matwork,” Shakur answered when asked of the biggest differences. “Top to bottom there is more exercise. Guys are just tougher in every position. Every position you have to win and guys never stop wrestling for seven minutes.
“I didn’t wrestle much last year, but in the practice room, I think I had the most growth, and it is a lot about mentality and mindset when you go out on the mat. That was the most important thing about the redshirt.”
After the year off, Shakur began his collegiate career competing with fellow Moc Scottie Boykin in the NWCA All-Star Classic in Atlanta. Despite losing to NC State’s Chad Pike by a score of 7-6, the experience Shakur gained in the classic was the biggest takeaway to prepare him for the regular season.
“It is always good to wrestle on a big stage and get your face and name out there,” Shakur said. “Winning or losing those things you always take something away. It is just good to wrestle on a big stage because if you want to get on the NCAA podium, you have to know what it feels like out there.”
As only a redshirt freshman, the future is bright for Shakur with nearly four years of eligibility left to compete, and the possibilities and goals for Shakur excite the youngster, who has high expectations for himself.
“The overall goal is to be an NCAA All-American and an NCAA champion,” Shakur said. “It is baby steps though. You have to grow to get there. Nobody makes that leap over night.
“To be young and kind of support the team as much as I do is different, but at the same time, that is why we are here. We are students and we are athletes, but you have to develop a little bit of leadership. It is good to know I have four years left.”
Shakur has worked his way into the starting lineup for the SoCon favorite Mocs in just his first season competing. Shakur has begun the year with a 3-2 record.
Shakur and the Mocs will hit the mat again Nov. 22 at the Wolfpack Open in Raleigh, N.C.
*Header photo by Chattanooga Athletics