Jeffersonville senior Gavan Jolley-Little, a 285-pound wrestler, has overcome major obstacles — the death of his father Torris on March 11 and knee surgery in May — to become a top threat to win a state title. Jolley-Little, who has committed to Indiana University and might pursue a nursing career, lost his first match in the heavyweight division last week.
After losing in the first round of the state finals last year, how has that experience helped you now?
It’s given me a lot of motivation to get back there. It’s the goal, and I know how hard I had to work last year and I have to step up and work harder this year. I think about it every day in practice, to prepare myself as much as possible.
What do you love about the sport?
I really like that it’s one-on-one. It’s a team sport with team scores, but when you get down to it, it’s you against another person. It’s not like with football or basketball with other guys. It’s really the only sport where it’s you and another person, and whoever is the strongest or has the best technique is going to win.
What factored into your decision to commit to Indiana University?
I really like Coach (Duane) Goldman; he’s an awesome guy. I know he will provide a lot of motivation. It’s also close to home, which was a big thing, and it’s the Big Ten. That’s like the SEC in football.
What pointed you toward a possible career in nursing?
I just like helping people. I feel fulfilled when I help people out. I feel like that’s me, it’s my personality to be a people person and make people feel comfortable. I’m really interested in the medical and biology topics.
How did you get through the surgery to your right knee?
The injury (an LCL ligament and meniscus tears) actually happened in the first of April, and I went through spring football and wrestled tournaments with it. It was nagging, it hurt, but I could deal with the pain. But having the surgery and having it fixed helped a lot. It’s back to 100 percent.
How did you handle the death of your father?
It caused me to mature a lot and helped me become a stronger person. I wouldn’t say it’s helped me physically in my wrestling, but it’s helped me become more mentally tough, to be able to persevere when something happens. I feel like I can keep my composure better.
Who has been your role model?
I would say a mix between my dad and Coach (Danny) Struck. They’re both hard workers and goal setters. My dad would work until 8 at night, then get ready for the same thing the next morning. Coach Struck is always involved in something, always busy and gets stuff done.
What lessons have you learned while participating in high school sports?
I’ve definitely learned to become a team player and to put my goals to the side and be about the team or a group of people. Also, hard work and being able to push through things when they get tough is one of the biggest things. You have to be a hard worker.
— Justin Sokeland