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Drayton Billie wins district wrestling title

Okeechobee High School wrestler Drayton Billie stands next to the school’s logo March 3, two weeks after he won a district championship in the 138-pound class.
Okeechobee High School wrestler Drayton Billie stands next to the school’s logo March 3, two weeks after he won a district championship in the 138-pound class.

OKEECHOBEE — In the waning seconds of a district championship match, Okeechobee High School junior Drayton Billie was in a good position on the scoreboard but not on the mat. As he clung to a lead with Class 2A-District 14’s 138-pound title at stake, his opponent rallied in the last minute of the final period Feb. 19 at Jensen Beach High School.

Determined to win his first district title, Drayton, of the Brighton Reservation, did everything he could to preserve his lead against Jensen Beach senior Devon McKinley.

“He caught me in a move. There was like 20 seconds left and I just held it,” Drayton said.

The seconds could not evaporate fast enough for Drayton, but confidence – something that he accrued while racking up victories during a solid season – helped him secure a 17-13 win.

“I saw 10 seconds; I knew I had it. I just had to hold on for a little longer,” Drayton said.

“He was hanging on,” said Okeechobee wrestling coach Bruce Jahner. “He relaxed too much and he got put on his back and the last 10 seconds he just bridged, but he still won by four points.”

Six Okeechobee wrestlers vied for district championships, but Drayton was the only Brahman who claimed a title, doing so in front of his parents, Emerson and Jeanne Billie, and his sisters.

Thanks to a fast start, Drayton built an early lead that he never relinquished.

“He scored some big throws at the beginning,” Jahner said. “He threw him to his back for five once and took him down, and then we had him on his back for a tilt for another three.”

Drayton admitted that thoughts of becoming the district champion flashed in his head during the match.

“Before it ended, I was surprised. I was like, ‘I’m going to win districts for the first time.’ It’s something new,” he said.

Having his arm raised in victory by referees is nothing new to Drayton, who compiled a 15-7 record this season. Drayton gets the most of his 5-foot-6 frame whether he’s on the wrestling mat or the football field.

“He’s very quick. He’s very strong. He’s got great balance. His speed is incredible and he’s strong for his size,” Jahner said.

Drayton’s victory in the district tournament catapulted him into the Class 2A-Region 4 tournament the following week. After winning both his matches on the first day against wrestlers from Boca Raton’s Olympic Heights and Miami Central, Drayton returned to Jensen Beach High School on day two with only one more victory needed to earn a trip to the state tournament.

The victory proved elusive.

He lost to South Broward’s Andre L’Abadie in a 5-2 decision in the semifinals. In the consolation bracket, he faced Jensen Beach’s McKinley in a rematch. This time McKinley won 12-6 and sealed the final spot to states.

“I felt like I could have done better, especially since I already beat him,” Drayton said. “I went in there with a different game plan. I should have stayed with the same game plan. I just keep shooting in and making mistakes instead of sitting back and letting him make mistakes.”

With the wrestling season over, Drayton shifted his athletic focus to spring football, where he returns as a top Okeechobee running back.

Throughout the year, he stays in shape by training in Boca Raton with Kamaru Usman, a mixed martial arts fighter and former NCAA Division II wrestling champion.

Drayton said he trained harder in the offseason this year compared to previous years and now has a district championship to prove it.

“My hard work is paying off,” he said. “I’m proud of myself.”

 

 

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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