In the Corner with Coach Atwood: Winston-Salem Native Jamel Johnson Excelling While Serving
The wrestling accolades of Jamel Johnson are unbeknownst to many within the North Carolina Wrestling Community. Being that Jamel is a Winston-Salem native, I’ve known about him and his success ever since he was a student at North Forsyth, from which he graduated in 2009. However, Jamel’s wrestling legacy in Winston-Salem, and at North Forsyth, is just a blip on the radar for what he has accomplished in the sport since graduating high school.
At North Forsyth, Jamel accomplished quite a bit from genuine athleticism, grit, grind, and incredible strength. His senior season he placed 3rd in the 4A state tournament after suffering his only loss of the season in the state semi-finals to eventual 4-time state champion, Corey Mock (son of former UNC Head Coach CD Mock).
After graduating high school Jamel enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he was a member of the wrestling team. For those who don’t know, UNCG used to have an NCAA D1 wrestling program. Almost immediately Jamel experienced a great deal of success by winning the conference regular season championship in his weight as a freshman.
Competing in spring events while representing UNCG, Jamel won the FILA Junior University Nationals twice, was University National Champion (2012), and was Greco-Roman University World Bronze Medalist (2012). He was also the New York Athletic Club International Champion that same year.
In 2013, Jamel enlisted in the US Army. He would serve in the Army until 2016 and would leave the Army as a Sergeant. The unit he was assigned to was the World Class Athlete Program.
Since enlisting in the Army here is a list of Jamel’s accomplishments (wrestling and otherwise):
Pan American Championship (3rd)
U.S. Open (4th)
U.S. Open (4th)
World Military Championship (5th)
Graduated from UNC-Greensboro
World Military Games Greco-Roman (9th)
Dave Schultz Memorial International (3rd)
Joined the US Marines as a Logistics Officer
Arvo Haavisto Cup (5th)
Grand Prix of Spain (2nd)
Haparanda Cup Greco-Roman (2nd)
U.S. Open (3rd)
World Team Trials (3rd)
Dave Schultz Memorial International (1st)
Haparanda Cup Greco-Roman (5th)
Tbilisi Grand Prix (7th)
U.S. Open (3rd)
World Military Games (13th)
Armed Forces Wrestling Championship (2nd)
Olympic Trials (7th)
RS - Matteo Pellicone Tournament (10th)
Grand Prix de France Henri Deglane (5th)
Pan American Championship (1st)
RS - Matteo Pellicone Tournament (8th)
UWW Junior and Senior Nationals (2nd)
World Team Trial Challenge (4th)
Beach Wrestling World Games Trials (1st)
US Marine Corps Beach Wrestling National Championships (1st)
As you can see, Jamel has been doing a lot of wrestling since leaving North Forsyth. His finishes in the US Open and Pan-Am Games are tremendous and being able to compete in the Olympic Trials is the experience of a lifetime.
All this wrestling success ultimately led to Jamel being ranked as high as #4 in the world in Greco-Roman at his weight.
Jamel is 32 years old and has plans to continue to compete if the opportunity presents itself. He has 10 years left before he is eligible to retire from the military.
Jamel has been married for 11 years to Elizabeth and they have 3 children (2 boys, 1 girl).
I reached out to a few people who have been influential in Jamel’s development as a student and as an athlete to get a comment from them.
Here are their comments:
David Atkins (Retired teacher and former North Forsyth Athletic Director)
“Jamel was a treasure/gem for all who had the pleasure working with him as a student athlete at North Forsyth. During my tenure at North Forsyth, Jamel, for his small stature, was blessed with incredible strength, athleticism and heart. Jamel was an incredible wrestler but also was a very good running back and defensive back on our football teams. He possessed a strong work ethic and high moral values as a young man before entering the military. Honor, Courage and Commitment and the pursuit of excellence is an example to all.”
Austen Cheeks (Former North Forsyth Assistant Wrestling Coach)
“Regionals, Jamel’s sophomore year, he was in the consolation semifinals, the match to go to states. He’s up 1 with a minute to left and is on bottom. The person he’s wrestling throws in both legs and starts cranking a power half. Jamel’s on his hip, it’s not looking good, but I’ll never forget the look in his face. The look of “the only way I give up back points is if he rips my shoulder out.” That look is when I knew he was special and that this sport meant something to him.
Jamel has always set high expectations for himself but more importantly he’s always done the work. That’s why he’s always been successful. His wrestling career has been impressive, it’s taken him all over the world but as his former coach, the true joy comes from watching him succeed professionally, having a beautiful family, and now his children are getting on the mat.
Also, let it be known, Jamel’s senior year I tried my hardest to convince him and coach Bowles that he’s a state champ at 130 or 140 but he insisted he wanted to wrestle Corey Mock. When that match happened at states and things started to not go well coach Bowles looks at me and says, “oh he’s good” (lol). Jamel always says he doesn’t regret it because that was the match that pushed him to really want to be better at wrestling.”
Jason Loukides (Former UNCG Head Coach and US Marines Wrestling Coach)
“Jamel is a special athlete that was able to dedicate many years of his life to the sport of wrestling. He has accomplished so much, but like most athletes, he wishes that he would have done more. Sometimes you need to look back at what you have accomplished to realize just how good you are and were. Jamel is right: it is never everything you want it to be but in this case, it is really close!
I am blessed to have been along for the ride. For me, coaching Jamel was truly special. I was able to witness firsthand his dedication to the sport of wrestling for nearly 15 years.
Not everything that he has accomplished was on the wrestling mat. He is a husband, father of three, college graduate, commissioned officer in United States Marine Corps, and someone that will continue to do great things in the years to come.
When I met Jamel, I could tell instantly that he was a smart tough kid from Winston Salem who was dreaming of big things! Fifteen years of accomplishments later, he is still that smart and tough, and still dreaming big. He is a great representative of North Carolina and I couldn’t be more impressed with what he has accomplished so far. It is a tribute to his family, his upbringing and all the coaches who had a hand in his development.”
Regardless of what the future holds for Jamel’s wrestling career he has had an incredible experience with the sport. To have been able to travel the world and compete against the best while rubbing shoulders with our best is extraordinary and something he will remember for the rest of his life. Congratulations Jamel.