By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Pelham High wrestling coach Eric Pollard said he never treated double amputee Hasaan Hawthorne any differently than any other Panther grappler.
“The same technique we taught one guy, we taught him,” Pollard said. “He’s learned the same way anyone else would. It’s really no different, except now he’s a state champion.”
Hawthorne never stood taller, even without his prosthetics, as he took his place atop the podium Saturday. His 7-3 decision over Southside-Gadsden’s Landon Thompson pushed his senior season record to 37-0 and gave him the Class 6A 145-pound championship.
He was tabbed the most outstanding wrestler in Class 6A in the Alabama High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Championships.
This was Hawthorne’s second trip to Propst Arena at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center in as many years. But despite the congratulations he received for his third-place finish in 2015, the wrestler wasn’t happy.
How did he respond to that feeling? His one-word reply: “Work.”
“He made it his mission to finish off this year,” the coach said. “His dreams come true, our dreams come true, what we worked so hard for since his middle school days. We’ve come up through the ranks and it finally paid off. It’s been a great ride.”
Before his final match, Hawthorne could be seen bobbing his head to “hype music” on his Beats headphones. He said he didn’t need the tunes to get excited about his championship tilt.
“I just have fun when I get hyped,” he said.
In the stands, his mother Felecia Hawthorne sat with other fans, waiting for her son’s match. She’s reminded of the difficult lesson she and her husband Demond had to learn how to not overreact to a young Hasaan falling.
“It was difficult, especially starting out,” she recalled. “It hasn’t gotten any easier, I don’t think.”
Demond Hawthorne walks around the concourse nervously before his son’s final high school match. He’s confident, he says, but he’s anxious.
“It’s harder for him to get off his back than for other wrestlers,” he said. “No matter who he’s wrestling, all it takes is one mistake and that can be it. That feeds into the anxiety.”
The Pelham senior stands 6 foot 5 when wearing his prosthetics and his arms are proportionately long. Those long arms provided a defense field Southside’s Thompson couldn’t penetrate.
“He’s real long,” coach Kyle Routon said of Hawthorne. “With how long his arms are, if you stab with your lead leg, he always attacks it. We were just trying to protest the lead leg.”
Hawthorne hopes to continue his wrestling career in college. He said he has received some interest but not many offers.
The Pelham wrestler’s physical strength was evident on the mat Saturday. But Pollard said Hawthorne’s will is stronger.
“That’s what’s been driving him from Day One, his willingness to put in the hard work day in, day out in the offseason,” he said. “It’s paid off.”