Wrestlers compete in Jacob Challenge

Liberty athletes participated in the 24-hour training event to raise money for traveling expenses and gear

The Bible tells a story of a young man confronted in the middle of the night by an unknown traveler. Locking hands in head-to-head combat, the young man fought valiantly against the traveler until the break of dawn.

Power — Liberty wrestlers were no longer seen as Jacobs — “Graspers of Heels” — after the 24-hour training. Photo provided

Power — Liberty wrestlers were no longer seen as Jacobs — “Graspers of Heels” — after the 24-hour training. Photo provided

This is the story of Jacob, “The Grasper of Heels,” who fought with God and became blessed with new life.

Forty young men gathered Friday, Sept. 20 in the wrestling room located near the south end zone of Williams Stadium to test their will in a 24-hour training event called the “Jacob Challenge.”

“The Jacob Challenge was both a team bonding experience and fundraiser designed to test the team both mentally and physically,” Liberty University Assistant Wrestling Coach Allen Hackmann said. “The secondary goal of this event was to raise $10,000 in funds for the wrestling team’s travel expenses and gear.”

Wrestlers gradually began filling the room, not knowing what they faced.

Filled with anticipation for this long day, wrestlers walked in and began to organize their cubbies, lace their shoes, bandage their bodies and sit quietly, watching as the short hand of the clock edged toward six.

“Walking in the room, I was a little bit nervous,” returning All-American and Liberty University junior Chase Boontjer said. “I just got to thinking that this was one of those unique opportunities that I could look back on and say, ‘I did that.’”

Asking these young men to extend themselves in preparation for the long season ahead, the Jacob Challenge demanded their full attention.

“My anticipation walking into the room was to work hard, be tired and get mentally tough,” returning Liberty University wrestler and junior Josh Sanders said.

As heat began to fill the room, the wrestlers gathered around the coach in preparation and prayer for the trial, asking God for guidance, safety and determination.

Hour after hour, the intensity grew, as wrestlers battled it out on the mat. The participants exhausted themselves, running the steps of William Stadium, flipping tires in the stadium and attempting to battle fatigue all night.

Tap out — Wrestlers underwent a 20-minute grind match at the 23-hour mark. Photo provided

Tap out — Wrestlers underwent a 20-minute grind match at the 23-hour mark. Photo provided

“These are the times you will remember,” former NCAA wrestler and Liberty University alumnus Jonathan Perkins said. “Stay persistent during these moments, because once something like the Jacob Challenge is over, you will never be able to forget it.”

With each tick of the clock, wrestler after wrestler began to feel the threat of failure. However, strengthened by their bonds to one another and their willingness to commit to the challenge, the team pushed through.

As the wrestlers reached the 23-hour mark, they began just as they started. They again laced up their shoes, bandaged their bodies and sat silently, awaiting their final test — a 20-minute grind match.

“All I can ask of you guys is to push yourselves past your fatigue and take comfort in knowing upon completion of this you will have accomplished something that most men could not,” Liberty University Head Wrestling Coach Jess Castro said. “In this final hour, it is a chance to truly define yourselves and experience what it means to push through the pain.”

As the wrestler reached the mat, the final hour of the Jacob Challenge had arrived.

As the clock’s final stroke hit six, and the men journeyed outside the wrestling room, they were no longer seen as Jacobs – “Graspers of Heels,” — but Israels— “Fighters of God.”

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