Crown him: Shuman becomes first Callaway wrestler to win state championship

Published 7:45 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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Going all the way back to when the school was founded in the late 1996, Callaway has just one state title in school history — the 2020 football state championship — but that changed on Saturday. Callaway senior wrestler JoJo Shuman etched his name forever into Callaway History when he won the AA traditional wrestling state championship in the 285 lb. weight class.

“It was a relief, it felt like the weight was off my shoulders,” Shuman said. “This means a lot to me and I can’t imagine doing it anywhere else but here at Callaway.”

Shuman was ranked as the no.1 wrestler in his weight class in AA coming into the season, but the senior did not buy into the hype, he put his heart into the work.

“Jojo never bought into the preseason hype,” said Robbie Addams, the Callaway head wrestling coach. “He just put his head down and went to work.

“This makes me so proud of him because I know how hard he works outside of school.”

The hard work paid off in the biggest of ways. Shuman was trailing 2-1 with a minute to go in round three aka the final round, but slammed his opponent to the mat which unfortunately left him unable to continue in the match, but it was a shrewd move that gave Shuman a little piece of history.

“No takedowns happened in the first period and I took down to start the second period and got an escape to get my point,” Shuman said. “He chose down in the third and escaped to tie things up and just before he got hurt I got hit with a technical violation to put him up 2-1.”

Instead of letting any sort of frustration boil over after being assessed a technical, Shuman remained calm and composed. He was like that all day even though his coach was beginning to feel the nerves by Saturday afternoon.

“I was more nervous than he was,” Adams said with a chuckle. “I remember sitting down in the arena by myself and coach (Pete) Wiggins walked up and asked me if I was alright and I told him I was nervous.

“Jojo sees me after he gets announced as a finalist and said ‘You look nervous, I’m not.’”

He also broke what began to feel like a curse. The Callaway wrestling team has had numerous wrestlers compete in the final match and finish runner-up, including assistant coach Jacob Rice, the first Callaway wrestler to compete for a state championship in 1997. 

After falling short last season at state, Shuman assessed some of the deficiencies in his game to bridge the gap between himself and the state champion.

“I wasn’t really good at holding people down last year and I worked on that, and this year I was able to win my semifinal match by holding somebody down and that really showed me that all my training over the last year has paid off,” Shuman said. 

That is what separates Shuman from many of his peers. He is not afraid to admit his faults and see room for improvement. 

Unfortunately, the state championship match was the final match of Shuman’s career. The senior will be playing football at Point University in the fall, forgoing any offers to wrestle at the next level. Having been wrestling for over seven years, it is bittersweet to say goodbye.

“I’ve been coming in here for seven years working towards this goal, so it feels like a big relief to finally do it in my last chance,” Shuman said. “Seeing the guys come before me who were better than me fail to win state makes me feel honored to be able to do it.”

Shuman has practically served as an assistant coach with the team for the last couple of years as he passed down his knowledge and experience to younger wrestlers.

Adams is in his first year as head coach of the team but has been involved as an assistant for six years prior to this season. Shuman has had Adams in his corner practically all his sports life as Adams also served as Shuman’s offensive line coach during football season.

“It’s like having another me around,” Shuman said as the two shared a laugh.

The two had a bet that if Shuman won state, Adams would have to shave his beard off for the first time since 2020. Adams is currently clean-shaven.

“We’ve had three other wrestlers since I’ve been here wrestle for a state championship and we lost all three, but we didn’t have the support at those that we had at this one,” Addams said. “There were about 40-50 Callaway people there to cheer him on. Hogansville made it to Macon and got a little rowdy on Saturday.”

The two have helped the program reach new heights. In addition to being the first wrestler to win state in school history, he also helped the program win its first area championship earlier this month.

“It means a lot to me to be able to help set the tone here going forward,” Shuman said. “Hopefully, next year they can carry on and have another state champion next year.”

Even though he graduates in May, Shuman will be a Cavalier legend for life.