Ka’Ron Lewis met plenty of obstacles during his first year as the starting heavyweight on South River’s wrestling team.
His accomplishments on the season are impressive: 37-6 overall, Anne Arundel County heavyweight champion and, most recently, Class 4A/3A state heavyweight champion.
On their own, his achievements do not properly reflect his improvement from his first varsity match to the state championship. His resolve, along with the results, led Lewis to be named Capital Gazette Communications Wrestler of the Year.
“With the help of the coaches, I’ve really stayed focused and committed, and it turned out for the best,” Lewis said. ”South River is known for heavyweights and I didn’t want to disappoint the school or all the coaches who invested their time in me.”
Lewis traded victories and defeats with Old Mill’s Nasir Bakare throughout the regular season. In the county championship, Lewis beat Bakare by a 2-1 decision.
Mount Hebron’s Nick Nordhausen beat Lewis in a dual meet in February. Just over a month later, Lewis took a 3-2 decision over Nordhausen to be crowned state champion.
“Ka’Ron’s coachable,” coach John Klessinger said. “It’s crazy how every match he went out, he was a little bit better than he was before.”
Lewis takes a pragmatic approach to his athletic career at South River. The 6-foot-2, barrel-chested junior has already established himself as a force on the offensive and defensive lines for the Seahawks’ football team. In football and wrestling, Lewis saw a unique opportunity to improve himself.
“Coach just walked up to me and said, ‘Hey you should wrestle,’ and I decided to give it a try. With football and wrestling, you can take something from one and apply it to the other. So I just said, ‘Why not?’”
For two years Lewis had Brendan Woody, last year’s state heavyweight champ, to train under. Woody never took it easy on him, Lewis said.
“I mean, I got beat up for two years every day during practice. But, it’s all made me better as a wrestler and a person. Woody is a chill, funny person. Everyone in the room loved him, everyone in the school, he’s just a fun person to be around, and he was a great partner.”
“Oh, tremendously,” Klessinger said, when asked if training with Woody helped Lewis. “They’re like polar opposites, too. Ka’Ron’s a little bit bigger than Brendan. Brendan’s more finesse, quick, whereas Ka’Ron is more like a brute, more physical. I think that benefited Ka’Ron a lot, just that style. It helped him learn to move a little bit better and flow a little bit more on the mat, and in some respects made him more of an athletic type of wrestler versus just a big guy who goes out there and tries to throw people around.”
Lewis doesn’t have the sort of athletic backstory that starts at a young age. The resolve to hold his head high in the face of adversity is something he learned off the field, well before he ever put on a football helmet or wrestling singlet.
“I don’t come from a rich family, so I got into sports late, in high school,” Lewis said. “Most definitely my mom is a big influence on me. She was a single mom at one point. It was hard with the circumstances, just her having to do (what she had to do to raise us). When my stepdad came in, he took on that role after my father left. He was someone I could look up to. It was real nice.”
Before Lewis’s stepfather, Gary Mackell, came along, his mother, Pamela Spencer, was raising five children: three girls and two boys, including Ka’Ron.
“Growing up with those circumstances, it was pretty rough until my stepdad came along,” Lewis said. “Just looking at that (situation), always staying confident, learning not to give up so easily, raising five kids on your own in those circumstances, it’s pretty hard. She pulled through and made it, and we’re in a really good situation now. It just taught me to not give up, to keep moving forward.”
Today, his oldest brother is 24; the oldest sister is 19; Ka’Ron is 17; his two younger sisters are 15 and 14; and Mackell and Spencer have a 6-year-old son together, the youngest of the bunch.
Lewis said he still sees his father from time to time.
When it comes to college, unless he finds a situation where he can continue wrestling, Lewis will likely focus solely on football. He’s already turning heads before his senior season. The Baltimore Touchdown Club named Lewis to its 2018 Super 22 Team, a selection of Baltimore-area juniors to watch for next season.
He’s also been contacted by several Division I collegiate programs, including Maryland, Morgan State, Utah and Boston College.
But before he gets to that point, Lewis has one goal to achieve before his high school wrestling career concludes.
“South River doesn’t have a back-to-back state champ,” Lewis said. “Next year’s wrestling season, the goal is to put the time in, dominate the whole season and hopefully get back to the state competition. That’s my primary focus.”