"Wrestle" Airs Tonight on Independent Lens

May 20, 2019

Tonight, PBS audiences across Alabama and nationwide will get a glimpse into the lives of a determined group of students.

“Wrestle” is a documentary telling the unlikely success story of the wrestling team at Huntsville's J.O. Johnson High School. The team and school were underfunded, and the wrestlers were inexperienced. But the kids were also working to navigate life in north Huntsville – meaning crime, poverty and many other pitfalls.

Jailen Young is one of the students featured in the documentary. He says he was initially apprehensive about the filming – but he came around.

“Across the season, I just learned that – I think they have our best interests, they’re not going to put anything out there that makes north Huntsville look bad or makes the team look bad. So across time, I learned to adjust to the cameras and know that I could put faith in the team that they would produce something great.”

Lauren Belfer is the co-director, writer and producer of “Wrestle”. She says her co-director Suzannah Herbert first got interested in this wrestling team while looking for Southern stories to tell.

“They were beating kids from schools that had way more resources and a lot more funding, and kids that had been wrestling since they were five years old. So that initially grabbed her attention, and she went down, and just was immediately struck by the team and everybody’s spirit. And we decided that we had to make a film.”

"Wrestle" has already won numerous awards including Best Alabama Film at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival. Jailen Young was given the “Spirit of Sidewalk” award at the festival.

"Wrestle" airs tonight at 9 PM on Alabama Public Television.