Wakeland will strengthen NCWA champions while being a fisher of men for Flames
Two-time Georgia high school 6A state champion Jackson Wakeland is one of the most prized catches in the Liberty University men’s wrestling’s team’s Fall 2022 recruiting class.
An avid fisherman affectionately known in his hometown of Saint Simons Island, Ga., as “Flounderman” for his skill at catching the bottom-feeding fish, Wakeland works in the summer months on a charter boat that takes tourists to see sunsets and dolphins and guides fishermen on deep-sea expeditions.
But he is even more passionate about being a fisher of men for God’s Kingdom.
“Every day, he is either fishing on a pier, teaching others how to fish, or ministering to them, witnessing unapologetically as an ambassador for Christ to complete strangers that come back every year to see him again,” said Kati Wakeland, Jackson’s mom. “He is forever casting his net to get bait. Like Luke in the Bible, I correlate his launching off to college as being a fisher of men, because people migrate to him and he’s not ashamed of the Gospel.”
Wakeland amassed a high school career record of 152-30 — including 88-4 over his last two seasons — under the tutelage of his dad, Glynn Academy Head Coach Scott Wakeland. He became the first wrestler in the history of Glynn’s program to claim a state title as a junior 182-pounder before repeating the feat this past spring,
In Spring 2021, while riding the high of winning his first state title, Wakeland visited Liberty for a College For A Weekend (CFAW).
“I was able to get on the mat and I just loved the team and loved everybody there,” Wakeland said. “(Head Coach Jesse Castro and Assistant Coach Josh McIlhenny) and I hit it off right off the bat and I could tell this is where God is going to use me and grow me on this campus.”
Kati Wakeland testified that after he returned from that CFAW experience, he “put his nose to the grindstone, came back and slayed the academics, worked his tail off to defend his state title, and told the world that he is going to wrestle as a Liberty Flame.”
“He knows without a shadow of a doubt that Coach Castro and Coach McIlhenny are going to coach him to his highest potential, and at the same time dedicate his life to the Lord,” she added, noting that she has never met a more spiritually anchored staff and team. “Jackson has a desire to be the best he can be in the sport, and I know that they will shape and mold his gift while discipling his heart.”
Wakeland will likely wrestle at 184 pounds at Liberty, replacing Blake Barrick, who was the first of seven individual national champions as Liberty captured its fourth consecutive NCWA Grand Nationals team title, March 10-12 in Allen, Texas.
The projected marine biology student who wants to minor in wildlife photography maintained a 4.3 grade-point average while taking honors classes and earning enough college credits to enroll as a sophomore.
Wakeland experienced athletic success in a variety of sports growing up, including travel soccer, baseball, and basketball. He found wrestling in high school, in addition to cross country, track and field, and football.
His nickname on the wrestling mat is “Gas Tank,” because of his propensity for outlasting his opponents in the third period. Running cross country and football in the fall improved his endurance for wrestling in the winter months.
“I ran a lot for football, playing tight end/slot receiver and running back on offense and outside and middle linebacker on defense, so I was all over the field and constantly running,” Wakeland said.
He also showcased his upper-body strength by placing fifth in the discus in the state track and field meet as a senior.
Also a leader in the local Brunswick, Ga., chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Wakeland has partnered with friends to participate in FCA wrestling camps, sharpening others’ technical skills on the mat as they sharpen his.
“He wants to use the platform of wrestling as a way to encourage and challenge young people and as a way to minister to them,” Kati Wakeland said. “It is incredible when you take the Lord and put Christ right in the middle of your sport. It is a perfect combination.”
She noted that his life verse is 1 Timothy 4:12, which reads, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
“He has shared on several platforms that just because he is young does not mean that he is not walking in the will of God and seeking first His Kingdom,” Kati Wakeland said. “He is a really incredible God-fearing young man, which is why Liberty was his first choice and only choice.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer