TJ Lovell is a youth wrestler in name only.
The 9-year-old from Keystone answers every question and talks openly about his passion for sports.
He exudes confidence.
Lovell started his wrestling career at 4 because his parents wanted him to be able to defend himself. Little did they know it was the beginning of a very fruitful career.
He competes in tournaments year-round, first during wrestling season in the winter with the Prairie youth club and his travel team Team Iowa Hammers. During the summer, every few months, he competes in duals with his club.
Lovell usually attempts to double bracket in his tournaments, meaning he will wrestle — and normally win — his third- and fourth-grade bracket, while also competing in the fifth- and sixth-grade brackets.
His most recent accomplishment was winning the Trinity Award, a prestigious honor given to those who win three separate tournaments — the Tulsa Kickoff in November, Tulsa Nationals in January and the Reno World Championship in April.
All told, Lovell has won more than 120 trophies in his career and stands 113-2 this year. He has traveled all over the country, competing in places like Las Vegas, Denver, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin and every state bordering Iowa.
Outside of wrestling, Lovell also plays football, makes time for friends and is an avid player of the poplar video game Fortnite.
“I’ll tell ya the truth. When it comes to cutting weight my parents tell me to run on the treadmill,” Lovell said. “But what I do is play Fortnite and go all day with maybe eating a granola bar.”
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Despite all time taken up by wrestling and other extra curriculars, Lovell and his parents make sure to prioritize school above all else.
“The school is pretty good about letting him miss and make up the time,” said Sabrina Lovell, TJ’s mother. “He exceeds in school, because school is definitely a priority.”
“I’m pretty sure the only reason I’m so smart is because my dad says if I start failing my grades in school, I’m going to have to quit wrestling until I get my grades back up,” TJ said.
Somewhat surprisingly, the wrestlers Lovell looks up to most are not your every day big-time celebrities, but fellow youth wrestlers Martez Sheard and Dominic Munaretto.
He also is a big fan of Spencer Lee, a two-time NCAA champion for the University of Iowa.
Lovell hopes to someday wrestle at Iowa and play football, as well.
He wants to play in NFL.
“He certainly makes it interesting,” Sabrina said.