2003-03-08 / Sports

Wrestling-Academics Make Nazareth’s Jackman A Star

By Elio Velez

Wrestling-Academics Make Nazareth’s Jackman A Star

Gregory JackmanGregory Jackman

By Elio Velez

For Rockaway native Gregory Jackman, the balancing act of academics and athletics is a process that any teenager who participates in both endeavors has to figure out. At times, it can be very daunting but Jackman can handle the pressure. Look at his commute.

A normal weekday begins for 16-year-old Gregory Jackman at 6 a.m. Once he is dressed and ready for school, Jackman catches the Q22 to Beach 116 Street for his second part of his journey to high school. After taking the Q35 to Kings Plaza, Jackman transfers to another bus to arrive at Nazareth Regional High School in East Flatbush just before the opening bell at 8 a.m.

Why would anyone make that long journey to high school? Because Jackman had already gotten used to commute in middle school.

"I went to Pilgrim Christian Academy in Brooklyn because I had a lot of cousins there and it was a place where I would know people and it was a good school."

At the end of 8th grade, Jackman achieved great success when he was named valedictorian of his school. The academics were always there and he had always had a great interest in sports. But the opportunities to play sports at Pilgrim were not there until he attended Nazareth.

The first team Jackman made was track and field. Enjoying it very much, Jackman was always ready to go participate in other sports when he first heard of wrestling. "I realized that the guys who were on track were building endurance for wrestling. They told me I should try it out."

It was something he was interested but he thought it would be like the WWE. "I didn’t know much about it. I thought the same things other people think. Guys flying off the top ropes"

Only 5’3 at the time, the eager Jackman made the team with wrestling at the 132-pound weight class. Compounding the fact that he was a complete novice in the sport was also his size and strength in competing against others. "I was nervous because I was small. I thought my teammates would pick on me but they didn’t."

Feeling comfortable not only with his teammates but also with his wrestling skills, Jackman made a gigantic leap in his sophomore year. Nazareth honored him with the MVP of the team for his outstanding achievements.

The team is very tight knit and promotes each other successes. Even with the great achievements, wrestling is not a popular sport in New York in the catholic, private or city schools. Not much attention is paid by the newspapers or even within the schools themselves. In places such as Long Island or New Jersey City, there are more wrestling teams and more players. Nazareth only has 14 members on the team.

"It’s not the kinds of sport where everyone talks about it. There would be some days we would return to the school after the team won and the school didn’t announce it for days," said Jackman. "It’s not high profile."

Now in his junior year, Jackman battled a thumb injury and moved to a higher weight class at 142 pounds but completed a 15-6 record and was named captain of the team.

The great commitment to maintain good grades and play in sports comes from his tight knit family. Stephen Jackman, Gregory’s father was hesitant at first about his son wrestling.

"I used to be worried about the safety part of it because there is a risk of injury," Stephen says. "I remember the first time I went to the a tournament, I was surprised to see the amount of energy that went into it."

"I’m extremely proud. We (Stephen and his wife Lisbeth) try to give Gregory and his younger brother Nigel the very best in education and values," Stephen said. I think we have a proper foundation to build on. We are a close family."

Gregory’s training regimen not only includes practice and exercise but also two nights a week, Gregory practices judo as well. The judo training keeps him in shape all year round. The 5’5 Jackman is preparing to compete in the Empire State Games in the summer.

Jackman is very aware of the present but is also looking to his future. Gregory is interested in engineering and is looking to Hofstra as an early candidate, though it many not be his final choice. Hofstra does have a wrestling team, but Gregory doesn’t want to only count on wrestling as the path for future success.

"I don’t want to use wrestling as my main focus for going to college. I’m pretty good with academics and I want to show that I can balance both good grades and have good success in sports.

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