“Wrestling for a Reason”
Though Joey “Malcolm” Davis entered the world 4 days after Christmas in the 1993…he proved to be a special gift to his family, friends and all those in society who appreciate the sport of wrestling.
Joey’s father,” Big Joey” was a formidable high school wrestler and quickly recognized his son’s innate athletic ability. At age 5 Joey entered his first wrestling tournament and placed 2nd.
A fierce competitor, Joey was deeply disappointed by not winning the gold medal. To cheer him up, Big Joey bought little Joey a Reese’s Cup…and thus began a tournament ritual which has continued until this day.
The city of Compton (CA), Joey’s hometown, has produced many things…but never a world class wrestler.
Big Joey, raised in Gary (IN) was streetwise and got Joey on the right path at an early age. The first stop on this journey was Antonio McKee, a local trainer and a highly respected mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter with an extensive wrestling background who took Joey under his wing. Over the course of the next several years, McKee developed Joey into one of the top youth wrestlers in the country…in all styles and levels of competition.
Joey’s ascension included multiple USA National wrestling titles…and 2 state (CA) high school championships.
A standout athlete with EXPLOSIVE speed and power, Joey was a legit D-I football recruit (”Snoop Dogg” was his coach…and gave him the nickname “Iceman”) as a running back and kick returner.
Though Joey loved football, wrestling was his passion. When the lack of academic foresight prevented Joey from signing with a D-I school, he opted for Notre Dame College…a D-II school in the suburbs of Cleveland (OH).
Wrestling as a true freshman (not even Cael Sanderson can claim this) Joey immediately served notice to the D-II world that he was “for real” and won his first title in the 165 pound weight class with a 33-0 record.
To truly put this difficult task into proper perspective, one must first consider that Joey was a teenager competing against grown men.
Moving up to 174 pounds the following year, Joey overcame the proverbial “Sophomore Jinx” by once again going undefeated (39-0) and winning his second D-II title. The celebration didn’t stop there as Notre Dame College also captured the team wrestling championship trophy. Confident and unrelenting, Joey continued his domination of the 174 pound weight class and won his 3rd consecutive D-II title with a 38-0 record.
With the constant pressure (on and off the mat) of making D-II wrestling history squarely on Joey’s shoulders, the senior calmly (“Iceman”) handled the hype and took care of business (winning 19 straight matches)…punching his ticket to the NCAA tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. With Joey’s unblemished record now at 129-0…only 4 victories stood between him and greatness.
Focused and determined, Joey won his first 3 matches in the tournament…then returned to the hotel room (which he shared with his father) to rest, mentally prepare, and pray before facing the biggest challenge of his young life.
Knowing the importance of Joey’s final match, Big Joey decided to share a story with his son…one that involved the Davis family legacy and its connection with the slave ship “Zong” (aka “Zong Massacre” for more info CLICK HERE).
Big Joey went on to explain how 133 black slaves were thrown overboard (essentially murdered) to collect insurance money, and that a small number survived the voyage…some of which were his descendants.
Big Joey emphasized that if Joey won his next match (#133) he not only would achieve wrestling immortality, but that he would also be making a statement…not just for himself or wrestling, but for humanity and the 133 souls who unjustly lost their lives.
Joey had endured many hardships and struggles (including prejudice in the sport of wrestling) throughout his life…but this was powerful stuff.
Joey realized that the number 133 wasn’t just significant…it was symbolic.
The stakes also couldn’t be any higher. Win, it’s historic…lose, and you’re remembered as the second guy in college history who failed to finish his college career undefeated by losing your final match.
Not that Joey needed any additional motivation, but it was apparent that he had unfinished business to settle and was going to lay it all on the line in a few hours.
He dropped to his knees and prayed for God’s strength then collected his wrestling belongings.
It wasn’t long before the moment of truth had arrived…and all eyes in Denny Sanford Premier Center were clearly fixed on Joey and his opponent, Travis McKillop (34-1).
Having faced each other before (McKillop’s lone loss of the season was a 4-2 decision to Joey), both wrestlers were cautious in the opening period which ended 0-0.
The action and drama increased in the second period, but the result was the same…a scoreless deadlock (0-0).
The match would now come down to a test of wills for the final 2 minutes.
Joey took the top position to begin the period, but after a quick glance to one of his coach’s (Anthony Ralph)…confidently cut his opponent lose (considered an escape) with 1:55 left in match. Joey was now facing a 1-0 deficit with 1:55 left in the match…and his undefeated career hanging in the balance.
The famous proverb of the “Lion and the Gazelle” couldn’t have been more applicable than in this situation. Could Joey (the Lion) catch McKillop (the Gazelle) in the time remaining, or would his prey evade him…thus becoming the survivor of this battle and foiling his attempt to reach perfection? It didn’t take long (15 seconds) before the crowd had its answer as Joey went on the attack and took McKillop down.
The score now reflected Joey leading the match 2-1 with 1:40 remaining in the contest.
Now the question was…could Joey stay in control (ride) of his physically larger (6’3) and heavier (Joey was lighter than the 184 pound weight class in which he wrestled) opponent?
In the wrestling world, 1:40 is an eternity as much energy is expended by both athletes in this position.
As time ticked away the struggle escalated…and on multiple occasions McKillop seemed poised for an escape, but Joey remained in control.
What onlookers didn’t realize was that Joey had the spirit of 133 assisting (watch the video) him in completing his mission.
When time elapsed, a relieved Joey paused for a moment…first to give a silent thanks to God then to shake hands with his opponent.
Next, to the delight of the crowd…a jubilant Joey Davis did a little celebration dance as he acknowledged their cheers and standing ovation. Joey’s coaches and proud father looked on as he was awarded his fourth championship trophy and reached a goal that no other college D-II wrestler in the history of the sport had ever achieved.
I know you’re waiting for the part where the champion is showered with accolades and praise from all the news bureaus, social media, and sports networks…perhaps even an invite from the president.
Why not? History was made. Lesser accomplishments by athletes have received greater press and notoriety… including book deals, commercials and national awards etc.
True to form, the mainstream media had a different agenda to fill and failed to recognize Joey’s historic accomplishment…not even a peep!
Was Joey disappointed by the lack of publicity or recognition? No. Joey’s mindset has never been about worrying about what others think. Rather, his only concern is putting in the hard work necessary to achieve his goals. That’s something he can control.One thing’s for certain, Joey “Malcolm” Davis the kid who went from Compton to Cleveland has already made history and become an inspiration to many.
There’s also no doubt that Joey will continue his legacy in combat sports (it’s in his blood)…it’s just a matter of where and when he will create his next masterpiece.