Blackman Sets the Bar High

For most of us, school is hard enough. When you add a sport, club or any other extra-curricular activity, balancing your time and maintaining decent grades gets even more difficult. Imagine playing three high school varsity sports, being an active member in three school clubs as well as your church youth group. This is the life of senior Joseph Blackman. The most amazing part of it all is that despite his commitment to various sports, clubs and activities, he is the top runner for the 2017 senior class’ valedictorian.

Blackman has been an athlete for as long as he can remember. He started playing soccer for his church, First Baptist of Rock Hill when he was about eight years old. Since then, he has also picked up wrestling and most recently, cross country.

Throughout his high school career, Blackman has come to enjoy each sport. This year he joined cross country mainly to stay in shape as preparation for wrestling season, but was surprised at how much he actually enjoyed the sport.

Blackman running this year on South Pointe's varsity cross country team.
Blackman (right) runs during a meet this year on South Pointe’s varsity cross country team.

“Cross country was fun. I wasn’t competing for state or anything, but it was definitely more fun than I was expecting because I thought I hated running. I found out it’s actually fun to do with friends,” Blackman said.

Although Blackman enjoys both soccer and cross country, wrestling is his favorite. Blackman started wrestling for South Pointe in ninth grade, but even before then it was already a big part of his family. Blackman’s older brother, Ricky, was a South Pointe wrestler as well. In 2015, Ricky claimed a AAA wrestling state championship title. Blackman’s father is even an assistant coach for South Pointe’s wrestling program.

Blackman says he finds wrestling the most valuable because of the individual aspect of the sport.

“I’d say wrestling is my favorite because I’ve put the most time into it and I feel like it’s the most rewarding since you go out there by yourself and you’re able to win on your own,” Blackman said.

Wrestling season is one of the tougher seasons for Blackman diet-wise. Wrestlers are divided into classes based on their weight. Throughout the season, the wrestlers must remain within the margins of their divisions. Blackman says his family is extremely supportive during this time and helps him maintain his weight.

“Especially with wrestling, since weight is such a big part of it, my parents have done a great job helping me eat healthy. My mom grills chicken all the time, so they make sacrifices so I can maintain my weight and perform to my highest ability,” Blackman said.

Blackman says that his favorite wrestling memory so far is qualifying for the Upper State Championship his 10th grade year on varsity.

Blackman defeats opponent on the mat.
Blackman defeats Northwestern opponent on the mat.

So far in the season, the South Pointe wrestling team brought home the region title. Blackman personally has high hopes of following in his brother’s footsteps and winning a state championship of his own his senior year.

“This year wrestling’s going pretty well. I’m ranked in the state and I’m hoping to get the chance at maybe winning state. Right now, I have a good record,” Blackman said.

After high school Blackman plans to play in intramural sports. Blackman says he will be relieved of all the pressure associated with the sports, but he will definitely miss being a Stallion athlete.

“It’s kind of depressing knowing that this is my last year doing these sports in high school, but it’s also nice to be able to relax after all this is over. I know I’m probably going to miss it, so it’s sad,” Blackman said.

Sports are not Blackman’s only strong suit. He is also enrolled in Advanced Placement classes and is involved in multiple school clubs like National Honor Society, beta club, and FCA. Despite all the responsibilities as a student athlete, Blackman is able to manage his time fairly well.

When asked how he managed to rise to the top of the class, Blackman said he simply done what was required of him.

Blackman thanks his parents for always pushing him to do his best academically and helping him balance his time wisely.

“Well my dad’s a teacher, so academics have always been kind of a big priority in my household, so my parents have definitely pushed me to excel. They didn’t really pressure me or freak out if I didn’t make a good grade, but have always just pushed me towards doing my best,” Blackman said.

Even more influential than his family, Blackman’s spirituality as a Christian continues to drive him to do his best in all aspects of life.

“I can easily say my spiritual life is my number one priority, so naturally it has a great effect on me as a student and athlete. First, I feel like I need to perform my best so I can honor God, which is part of why I put 100% into committing to a sport or my education. Being strong in my faith also affects the way I react to defeat in these areas of my life, helping me cope with disappointment with the knowledge that each ‘failure’ can be used for growth,” Blackman said.

Blackman is very involved in his youth group at First Baptist in Rock Hill. Last summer, he went on a week-long mission trip to a small village in the mountains of Catadupa, Jamaica. While there, his youth group worked on several construction sites and also worked at a children’s camp.

Blackman recalls finding Jamaican boys playing soccer in the streets of the village. They let Blackman play along with them and it was an experience he will never forget.

Blackman playing soccer with young Jamaican boys in the streets of Cambrian. This experience was one of Blackman's favorites throughout his entire mission trip.
Blackman plays soccer with young Jamaican boys in the streets of Catadupa. This experience is one of Blackman’s favorite memories from his trip there.

“…before long they included me like I had known them my whole life. It was just great to see how something as simple as soccer could bring together people from such drastically different backgrounds,” Blackman said.

So far, Blackman has been accepted to the Honors Program at the University of South Carolina as well as Clemson University. Most of the other colleges he applied to won’t be responding to students until February or March.

As for the future, the sky is the limit for Blackman. After high school, he plans to major in either Physics or Astrophysics. He also intends on going to college and then to medical school after that.

By Kaylea Dresner, managing editor

Photos contributed by Joseph Blackman