Deaf Tokay wrestler Williams focused on winning - Tokay High’s Sam Williams got excited when he pinned his first opponent at the McNair Invitational. Then he pinned his next opponent. By the time the tournament was over on Saturday, Williams stood at the top of the podium as the tournament’s 195-pound champion, with all of his wins coming by pin. “I was shocked,” Williams said through interpreter Jeff Lewis. “But then I got really excited.” Williams uses an interpreter because he’s deaf. He can read lips to an extent, but for the exchange of ideas that comes with a wrestling environment, an interpreter is crucial. During football season, an interpreter stalked the sidelines with him on Friday nights. Wrestling is the same, and Williams, Lewis and Tokay coach Ed Carlos had to work out certain signs, because there may not be an American Sign Language equivalent for certain wrestling moves and slang. “It took a while to get our rhythm,” Carlos said. “But we’ve got it down where in certain situations he’s looking over.”
At wrestling practice, Lewis relays instructions both to and from Williams as the senior takes on more of a leadership role — a far cry from the freshman who thought he’d give wrestling a whirl four years ago. “I feel like I know what I’m doing, and I’m teaching other people how to do things as well,” Williams said. “They teach us different techniques, and I can work on them with my teammates.” On Tuesday, Williams and 220-pounder Jared Zermeno worked on various techniques with an assistant coach, with Lewis hovering nearby relaying instructions. Williams thought he’d start the year wrestling at 182 pounds — and even that, he wasn’t totally comfortable with — but then Carlos floated the idea of wrestling at 195. “I was nervous,” he said. “Those guys are so big. They’re grown men. But I didn’t look at that, I just wrestled, and I could tell they were tired.” Williams started the McNair bracket with a bye, then faced Alejandro Cardenas of Gregori High in Modesto. The result: a pin. That win put him in the semifinals of the 10-man bracket. There, he faced Taylor Dickson of Lincoln. The result: another pin. In the championship, he faced Joe Guillory of Franklin-Elk Grove, and again won by pin. Williams was the only individual champion for Tokay, which won the tournament as a team.
“He has great body awareness, and he’s very strong,” Carlos said. “He fools wrestlers into thinking he’s weaker than he really is, because he’s not ripped up, but he’s one of our strongest wrestlers.”
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