COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It was a royal end to a fantastic season.
“All that hard work and suffering finally paid off,” said Newberry senior wrestler Isiah Royal.
Last month, Royal reached the mountain top. He claimed the 2021 Division II National Wrestling Championship title at 141 pounds.
Royal’s road to becoming the best wrestler required patience and sacrifice.
“One big thing to staying motivated is remembering why you started,” Royal added. “Why are you here?”
Royal’s first dream involved scoring touchdowns and not recording pins. But his eventual high school coach in Georgia convinced Royal otherwise in the summer heading into 8th grade.
“I’m thinking I’m going to be a football star,” Royal recalled. “I’m weighing like 50 pounds in the 6th grade. I’m like, I’m a football player.”
“I enjoyed the hard work and traveling,” Royal shared about his first experience joining his high school wrestling team. “All of it made me fall in love with the sport.”
Wrestling provided the path to embracing discipline and sacrifice to fulfill dreams.
“It definitely helped,” Royal said. “I used to get in a lot of trouble in elementary and middle school. It provided me direction. It was something I really wanted to do. If I want to do this, I have to pass my classes and behave.”
Royal experienced tremendous success. He won three state championships in high school. On the college level at Newberry, the ultimate prize alluded him for years.
On March 13th, Royal captured his crown on the mat in St. Louis, Missouri.
After finishing as the national runner-up in 2019 and the pandemic wiping away the championships a season ago, it was a moment well worth the wait.
“All the hard work and suffering throughout the years, it finally has to pay off,” Royal said. “Now is my time.”
Royal’s extra motivation on championship night was to win for his family, team, coaches, and head coach Cy Wainwright’s wife, Megan.
“She’s not doing too well,” Royal said. “The wrestling team is keeping her going. I wanted to do it for her and make her proud.”
After winning it all, Royal embraced coach Wainwright to share in the euphoria.
“I told him we did it,” Royal added. “The greatest feeling ever.”
Royal’s achievement was honored by the South Carolina House of Representatives on March 18th. Royal became the fourth-ever national champion in Newberry history.