By JARED BELL
D.J. Hamiti has an alter ego.
A 106-pound freshman at Joliet Catholic, Hamiti may appear like a mild-mannered and happy kid.
Then he takes off his glasses, steps onto the mat and transforms into someone else.
“When he has his big, old glasses on, he looks like Clark Kent, but then he takes them off, steps onto the mat and looks like Superman,” first-year JCA associate head coach Ryan Cumbee joked. “Some fans came up to me at the Barrington tournament and were blown away. He goes out there looking like a chemistry teacher and then dissects people.”
Less than a month into his first season of high school wrestling, Hamiti has sliced his way through the competition with surgical precision.
Just 14 years old, Hamiti has started his prep career a perfect 14-0, including steamrolling the field at last weekend’s Mudge/McMorrow Invitational at Prospect.
For all he accomplished last week, Hamiti has been voted as this week’s GO EARN IT Wrestler of the Week.
“I actually think it’s pretty funny,” Hamiti said of Cumbee’s alter ego/Superman comparison. “He told me that a couple of times last year and hasn’t stopped this year.”
So far, it’s been fitting.
After Hamiti won three straight IKWF state titles – including last year along with Cumbee at Celtic Elite – Hamiti followed Cumbee – the former Marmion head coach and an assistant at Providence – to Joliet Catholic.
Since arriving, the Hilltopper star has done nothing but shine.
In going 14-0, Hamiti has nine pin-fall victories, a technical fall and two tournament championships – Barrington and last weekend at Prospect.
“Normally, I wouldn’t say that I expected a freshman to be this good but, with a kid like D.J., he’s special – and I do mean that,” Cumbee said. “He’s somebody that just continues to work hard and puts in more work than almost anybody. He deserves every bit of success he’s having.”
Cumbee – a former undefeated Class AA state champion at Providence who wrestled collegiately at Northwestern – has also had to pull back the reins on his star many times this season.
“I have a very strategic plan on when I want to practice and how I want to practice, so one day I told the kids that I wanted them to come in on a Sunday and workout for an hour,” Cumbee said. “Well, D.J. asked if we could go two hours? I told him, ‘No, we’re only going an hour because it’s Sunday,’ and he was disappointed by that.
“I’ve had to tell him, ‘No more going to extra practices or anything like that. During the season, I need you to trust me.’ It’s a long season, so a big part of being fresh and ready is not overdoing it. I’m constantly having to pull him back and say, ‘Trust the process, trust the work and we’ll keep you fresh and ready to go.’”
It’s just who Hamiti is.
Originally a football player, Hamiti began wrestling after a friend suggested wrestling could help him in football.
Turns out, Hamiti fell in love with the sport and now wrestles exclusively. He’s spent his offseason wrestling in tournaments as he competes in Greco and Freestyle.
All of his hard work is part of his quest of winning his fourth straight state title – but first in high school.
If he reaches his goal, Hamiti will become JCA’s first state champion since Pat Mudron in 1967 and only the school’s second state champion ever.
“I hope to be able to win state this year and it’d be a big accomplishment for my school,” said Hamiti, who will wrestle in the Class 2A postseason with JCA. “It’ll take a lot of working hard in the practice room and at the gym.”
In addition to all of his success on the mat, he’s also been a winner off it by winning this award, for which Cumbee nominated Hamiti.
“I nominated him for the award because nobody is really paying attention to Joliet Catholic wrestling, and the one person who should be more than anyone else is me,” Cumbee said. “I’m fighting to get some recognition for our team and our school.
“I didn’t sleep well the past few days because I checked the poll every couple hours to see where he was at. I want nothing but great things for any and all of our wrestlers, so I was pulling for him.”
Just like on the mat, Hamiti came out on top.
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