JaMarr Billman returns to the wrestling scene with appearance at Midlands

By Andre Gibson | Dec. 23, 2000, 12 a.m. (ET)
Have you ever heard the expression that first impressions are everything? If so, you might remember many good things about JaMarr Billman in 1998. You would remember a student athlete with a 3.2 GPA in his freshman year at Penn State. You would also remember a true freshman who placed fifth at 142 pounds at the NCAA Championships. You would remember the free wheeling wrestling style, the pattented cement mixer, and the flair to bring the crowd to their feet. You would definitely remember victories over well-known college wrestling names such as Tirapelle, Schmidt, and Davids, just to name a few. After 1998, JaMarr Billman was expected to head towards sure stardom in the world of college wrestling. Going into his sophomore year at wrestling power house Penn State, JaMarr Billman had it all, and then the bottom fell out. Until now, the wrestling world has not heard much from JaMarr in nearly two years. Now competing for nearby Lock Haven University, his return to the mat comes with great speculation. Can he perform to the same level that he once did? More importantly, can he return to the promising student-athlete he once was in 1998? This is JaMarr's chance to finally tell his side of the story. It's a story of what JaMarr Billman once was and what he hopes to become again. JaMarr Billman grew up in the rich wrestling state of Pennsylvania. His best friend, and current University of Nebraska wrestling star Bryan Snyder got JaMarr involved in the sport at the age of 10. JaMarr went on to win two Pennsylvania State High School titles at Easton High School and become one of the most recruited high school wrestlers in his senior year. JaMarr chose Penn State to continue his wrestling career. Right away, the wrestling world started to take notice to the true freshman from Easton who was creating quite a stir in the rankings. With two near OT defeats of NCAA Champ Jeff McGinness of Iowa, JaMarr was succeeding on the mat and in the classroom. "I was focusing on wrestling and academics equally my freshman year at Penn State," he said. "After I became an All-American as a true freshman, wrestling along with my social life became the main focus in my life. My academics took a back seat." With the start of his sophomore year in 1999, JaMarr was ranked No. 1 in the country at 149 pounds and undefeated going into semester break in January. He was suddenly declared academically ineligible for the rest of the year. It was during this time, that JaMarr admittedly made several poor choices which would later come back to haunt him. Those poor choices led to JaMarr eventually being dismissed from the Penn State squad. "At one point, I didn't know if I was going to wrestle again, said Billman. I definitely learned a lot from my experience at Penn State. I regret some of the choices I made. But overall, they will serve me better in the long run and I know now how to be a stronger person to make smarter decisions in a social setting. I hold no hard feelings to the team or staff at Penn State. I was not being the positive influence to the team that I needed to be." JaMarr contacted long -ime friend, Lock Haven head coach Carl Poff, in an effort to get a fresh start. "When JaMarr called us, I knew JaMarr had a good heart due to our relationship while JaMarr was growing up," said Poff. "That was the key in giving him the fresh start. We knew he had it inside of him to be a good and productive wrestler and citizen." JaMarr says the transfer from one wrestling power house to another hasn't been that difficult, although it was a little tough at first. "In the beginning, I didn't know many of the guys. They have really gotten to know me and understand the type of intensity I want to bring to the room. The biggest influence since I have been here has been Coach Poff and Coach Rock Bonomo," he said. One might think that after a lengthy time off the mat due to academic, social, and transfer problems that JaMarr's main focus would be wrestling. It actually is quite the opposite as the answer lies in family and education. "My son Christian (14 months old) runs my life," said Billman. "He is my first and most important focus. It's not all about me anymore, it's about providing for him. I honestly get my happiness through him, especially when he calls me daddy." JaMarr also has taken his love for family and knows that will see him through to achieve his college degree in social work. "My father, (Duane Thornton) who I am extremely close to cares more about my grades. No matter what happens to me in wrestling, no one can take my degree away from me. That is why I am at Lock Haven. Eventually I want to be a guidance counselor. I want to help people with their difficult decisions in life and just let people learn from my experiences." The question everyone is dying to know, is when will JaMarr return to the mats as an Eagle for Lock Haven Univeristy. Never one to run from a challenge, JaMarr will probably end up competing at the always tough Midlands Championship (Dec. 28-29). After competing only three times in two years, JaMarr knows people will rightfully doubt his presence on the mat. "Simply stated, my goal is to still win the NCAA title, period. In my sophomore year, I was the favorite to win it all and I let it slip away. Now, I am the underdog, and I have no worries," he said. According to Coach Poff, JaMarr is back on track to wrestling greatness, but more importantly, being the type of person he needs to be. "He was done well academically, but can improve just a little more. He really has found a comfort level at Lock Haven, and I am glad we could help him succeed socially and athletically. It really is an honor to coach JaMarr and see him mature into a positive young man and a great father," said Poff. What will the rest of the wrestling season hold for JaMarr Billman? No longer being considered a sure thing in the wrestling world is just fine with JaMarr Billman. He knows that his new focus in life will get him through the good and bad times. As JaMarr put it, the only person that he needs to prove anything to is himself. See Hi-Flyer See Billman Throw-by See Billman Cement Mixer