CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - He can hear the sound of a take-down, the fans cheering in the stands and his coaches shouting instructions to him on the bench. He can smell a freshly-cleaned wrestling mat, but Meadowbrook’s Dajeon Archie can’t see any of it. The Monarch freshman wrestler is almost completely blind.
“Dajeon is almost totally blind, can barely, just barely distinguish shapes, lights on, lights off and stuff like that,” said Meadowbrook head wrestling coach Jim Reilly.
So how does a freshman who’s visually impaired end up on the wrestling team? A couple of his friends encouraged him to go to a practice and told Dajeon that the sport would be good for him. He attended a practice, decided he enjoyed the sport and stuck around.
Dajeon was the Monarchs’ starter at the 152 lbs. weight class during the season. It took him awhile to get used to the sport, but he got the hang of it, won a handful of matches, and earned a medal at a tournament during the season. The freshman grappler even came back after suffering a concussion.
“He had an opportunity to give up he didn’t, but he was a little bit behind so I had to catch him up,” observed Reilly. “He’s getting there. I wouldn’t say that he’s there yet, but he’s getting there and he works hard to do it.”
“As I started to pick up momentum during some of my matches and getting down the technique... I would say definitely winning that medal at a tournament that we had about a month or so ago really helped,” said Dajeon.
Most of the freshman’s counterparts on other teams are of full sight, but there are rules in place to protect blind wrestlers. Opponents must remain in contact for the duration of the match and if it’s broken, the match is stopped so that it can be re-established.
Dajeon did not set out to prove anything to anybody, but he’s setting an example.
“I think it shows a lot of people that I’m just like they are."
“Wrestling’s all-inclusive. Wrestling’s for everybody,” Reilly adds. “You can be blind, you can be short, you can be tall.”
While Dajeon can’t see his friends and foes on the mat or in the bleachers, they can certainly see what he’s accomplishing. He’s not letting his impairment stand in the way and is pinning any idea that vision is needed for victory.
“They understand, first of all, how tough wrestling is when you can see," said Reilly, "and now he’s doing it and he can’t see what’s going on, and they just give him a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s doing.”
“My mom, she always told me that I could do anything that I wanted to as long as I put the effort in and tried,” Dajeon said. “Today I just don’t let anything hold me back.”
Dajeon says he enjoys wrestling and plans to continue the sport throughout his high school career. He’s considering doing track and field, as well.