By Jake Davis
It didn’t take long for Kamar Houston to make a name for himself.
The Oxford sophomore was part of the school’s first-ever wrestling team this year and eventually set himself apart as an athlete with real promise in the sport.
Coming off a grueling football season, it took some time for Houston to get settled in with the team and get his body in shape for a new sport.
“The first few practices — they were really hard, I’m not gonna lie,” Houston said. “I got home from practice and just went straight to sleep because those were some of the hardest practices I’ve had.”
Head coach Konrad Ernst said it was obvious that Houston’s body needed a break, so he encouraged him to take some time off in order to get his body right and regain his strength.
“He came in a little later with the kids who got done with football… he would come in and you know — he was lifting with football, he was trying to do track workouts and stuff and I think he was just putting a lot of stress on his body,” said head coach Konrad Ernst. “That’s tough to work through sometimes so I just told him ‘if you need some time off, just take a practice, take two practices [off].'”
Houston did just that and came back better than ever, hungry to hit the ground running after regaining his strength.
He immediately made an impact at practice, establishing himself as one of the top wrestlers on the team and helping coaches offer guidance to teammates who were new to the sport.
“I think once his body was feeling healthy he was ready to go. It just gave him that little bit of extra energy to just put himself into the sport 100 percent,” said Ernst. “You could see him working with other kids in practice and not only was he trying to get better himself, but he was also coaching up other kids and those kids started doing better and better.”
Ernst said Houston always had the physical tools to be successful, but that it took a while for him to gain confidence and realize that he had a real chance to dominate the sport.
“He’s a big, strong kid. He’s cut up, he looks the part — I mean, physically he’s a monster,” Ernst said. “But I think he definitely evolved mentally over the season. You could see him taking additional interest in the sport and I think there was more pride towards the end of the season. He would lose a match and be like ‘that’s not me, I can beat that kid.’ He was setting goals for himself and you could just see his brain running a little bit more.”
Houston continued to refine his craft, adding new moves to his arsenal and working on his endurance until he was able to compete with the top wrestlers in Mississippi.
Houston’s hard work slowly began paying off in competitions, where he routinely pinned opponents and established himself as a true contender in the state.
“The first couple of matches I was still feeling a little nervous but I started winning a lot more, learned a couple more moves and I got more confident,” he said. “One of the bigger tournaments for me was the North Half qualifiers because getting second there gave me the confidence I really needed. It made me feel like I could actually compete.”
That mental evolution paid off in the state tournament, where he secured a crucial pindown in the final to finish at the top of the 182-pound weight class and claimed Oxford’s first state championships in boys’ wrestling.
“He knew he was gonna be sitting at the top of that podium and he worked for it and made it happen,” Ernst said. “I think that’s just a testament to who he is as a student and an athlete because it’s hard work.”
Houston’s impressive performance at the state tournament earned him a spot at the 2023 National High School Coaches Association national tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he competed against top performers from other states.
Despite his early success in the sport, Houston says he still has room to grow and is eager to use the tools he learned competing against the best of the best in the country as he prepares for next season.
“This is a big motivation for me to keep on going and keep competing,” Houston said. “I’m really excited to get back to it next year.”