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WHITT’S SILVER MAKES HISTORY

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By Patrick Lujan

High School wrestling star Jonah Whitt knew he had the skills to take on the world, it was just a matter of time before he could display them.

Jonah Whitt stands on the medal podium as a silver medalist in Sydney. (courtesy photo)

Jonah Whitt stands on the medal podium as a silver medalist in Sydney. (courtesy photo)

Whitt became the first Guam athlete to medal in an Olympic-sanctioned event after taking the silver medal in the 54kg (118-lbs.) freestyle wrestling division of the Australia Olympic Youth Festival on January 20th in Sydney.

“I’m just glad I came home with a medal,” the junior from St. Thomas School said.

And so is Guam.

Whitt, who has gone undefeated the last two seasons in Guam’s high school wrestling scene, experienced his first ever international competition

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I really prepared hard. Even during the (high school) wrestling season, I had this tournament in mind. I had high expectations of myself, but at the same time, I had an anxiety. I would’ve been happy with a bronze, but getting to the gold medal match, it definitely exceeded my expectations.”

With this being his first taste of high-level international competition, Whitt easily took care of his first two matches: pinning his Australian opponent in under 30 seconds in his first match and cruising past his Brazilian counterpart 7-0 and 8-0 in the two rounds of his second match.

His third match was the semifinals against a wrestler from New Zealand, where he won 8-2 and 8-5. “It was a little bit more back-and-forth but I still kept the pressure and kept attacking.”

He advanced to the gold medal match against China’s Guangbin Zhang who was visibly bigger than Whitt and had to cut more than 10 pounds at weigh-ins the day before competition while Jonah didn’t cut weight at all. In fact, he weighed in under the limit.

To top it off, it was the first time ever he’d wrestle four matches in one day.

“It was a real test of conditioning but I still felt fine.”

Going into the final match, Whitt said his opponent was ‘very different’ from his first three foes.

“Even though I wanted to be the aggressor, he knew what my plan was and he capitalized on it, he was countering me to expose my back and it gave him three points…and he did it twice.” The Chinese won the first round 6-0.

In the second round, Whitt shot in again early on, only to be countered and suplexed for a five-point thrown. He would lose by that score (5-0) and settle for silver and some serious international experience.

His biggest takeaway? “How I should try and be more than one-dimensional in the sport.”

His preparation for international competition continues as he is set to represent Guam in the Abu Dhabi World Kids Cup for jiu-jitsu April and the Oceania Wrestling Championships to be held on Guam in the same month.

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Since forming the GNYFF in 2009, the league has never gone without a season until 2020. The league announced their plans to cancel the 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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RIP: Former Guam football player Phil Mendiola, shown here with son Tano, passed away in Las Vegas due to a heart attack. Mendiola played for numerous Guam teams from youth to varsity. He was 39.
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Morgan McKenna (left with black face mask) poses for a photo with Guam Football Association Technical Director Sang Hoon Kim (seated, with blue face mask) and Guam Football Association Assistant Technical Director Ross Awa (standing) after signing his letter of commitment to play intercollegiate men’s soccer for Muskingum University in Ohio. The Fighting Muskies compete in NCAA Division III’s Ohio Athletic Conference.

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