If you are looking for Yukon wrestler Jaxen Gilmore before a match, you can find him off to the side of the mat, listening to music with his head bobbing and his lips moving to the words of the song that is blaring through his headphones.
If you didn’t know any better, you might question the state champion wrestler’s level of focus. However, Gilmore is not your average wrestler.
“I’m pretty relaxed,” Gilmore said. “I’ve always been like that. I learned at an early age to be humble. I have always had strong support with my family and my coaches. I’ve seen a lot of guys who have had attitudes. That’s not me. I never show it, even if I’m feeling it inside. I don’t want to act crazy and exert any extra energy.”
Gilmore added that on occasion he is not even thinking about wrestling before a match.
“Sometimes, I don’t even think about wrestling or who I am about to face,” Gilmore said. “I’ll be thinking about a lot of other things or just singing to my music. Sometimes, I’ll look over and see my opponent or other wrestlers and see them acting crazy and just laugh and think he looks goofy. I don’t’ get nervous.”
Gilmore may be laid back when he’s not on the wrestling mat, but as soon as he steps into the circle, he flips the switch.
“When I step on the mat, I’m able to flip the switch and let it all out when I wrestle,” Gilmore said. “It’s the one area that I unleash and let myself go.”
That unleashing Gilmore is referring to has helped him record a 144-18 record in his four years in the Yukon High School wrestling program.
As a sophomore, Gilmore won the 138-pound 6A state championship. As a freshman, he took third place at 126 pounds and as a junior, he finished in fourth place at 145 pounds.
Gilmore went 31-11 as freshman, 41-3 as a sophomore, 41-2 as a junior and is 31-2 so far as a senior.
“I came into my freshman year and I had to beat several upperclassmen to earn my spot on the varsity,” Gilmore said. “I went up against Boo (Lewallen) every day and he took me under his wing. He was tough on me and made me better. He taught me never to give up.”
Lewallen was a four-time state champion at Yukon and is now wrestling for Oklahoma State University. He was a senior for the Millers when Gilmore was a freshman.
“As a sophomore, it was a roller-coaster year,” Gilmore said. “I won my first tournament at Perry and then didn’t wrestle well at Reno (Nevada). I took third at the regional tournament and then got to state. I didn’t wrestle that well in the first day but in the second day, I just felt great. To this day, I have never wrestled as well as I did on that day.”
After winning the 138-pound state championship, Gilmore was expected to do the same as a junior, but things didn’t go as planned for the defending champ.
“I wrestled all year at 138 pounds and then right before the regional, I got bumped up to 145 pounds,” Gilmore said. “It was a weird year because we had several tournaments and duals cancelled, so I didn’t feel like I was 100 percent ready to go when regionals got here. I was able to win the regional but I didn’t wrestle very well at the state tournament. It was easier to not have to cut weight at 145 but all the other 145 pounders had been facing each other all year and had more strength than I did at that weight. It definitely made me more hungry coming into this year.”
Gilmore said he feels like he’s in much better shape this year going into the state tournament than he was a year ago. The 145 pounder swept through the regional tournament with ease last weekend at Southmoore.
“I have a lot of confidence right now,” Gilmore said. “Confidence and faith are keys to having success at the state tournament. Knowing you are going to win and not thinking you are makes a big difference. Approach every match like I own the mat and trust in the process.”
Gilmore is a Yukon Public Schools lifer and has been wrestling since he was four years old. He attended Parkland Elementary School.
“I played other sports as well but I liked not having others depending on me,” Gilmore said. “I liked the individual part of wrestling, where it was all up to me to win or not. I loved other sports like baseball and football but I had surgery in sixth grade during baseball tryouts and I decided never to go back out for baseball and just focus on wrestling.”
Gilmore said that he started to realize he could be good on the mat when he was in middle school.
“I would say seventh grade is when I realized that I could be pretty good,” Gilmore said. “That was the year I watched Boo win his first state championship and knowing that he was from Yukon was pretty cool. I just thought to myself, that could be me one day.”
Gilmore also won his first little league state championship as a seventh grader, as he came up through the Yukon little league wrestling program.
Gilmore will take his talents to Oklahoma City University next fall to attend school and wrestle on a scholarship, but before his time is done at Yukon he said he wants to be remembered as more than just a good wrestler.
“I want people to remember me as a good student and a good person,” Gilmore said. “Obviously, wrestling is a part of that but I am more than just a wrestler. I want to leave a legacy here. Boo got his, Vernon (Turner) got his, it’s time for another one, to keep it going.”