Rewriting The Record Books
Desi Green is arguably the most dominant athlete in UB history
Desi Green is the most prolific wrestler in UB history, but it is his life away from the mat that has made him into the man he is today. Alex Mccrossen /// The Spectrum
It isn't every day that the UB community gets to be a part of something historic. It also isn't every day that a kid who has endured countless obstacles is able to overcome them all and achieve greatness.
But both are unfolding, and if you haven't heard about Desi Green yet, here's the introduction.
Desi is a junior at UB and possibly the greatest wrestler to ever wear the blue and white. He's on the verge of becoming the first wrestler in UB history to win 100 matches before his senior season.
But to truly understand the greatness of Desi, you have to look beyond his accomplishments on the mat and to where everything started – with his best friend.
Chavela Jefferson is Desi's mom and has been his biggest fan since the day he was born. She attends virtually all of his matches and said she wouldn't know what to do without him.
"[Our connection] probably started the day he was born," Jefferson said. "He's just brought so much joy into my life. It's always been me and him."
Desi is still a mama's boy, even at 21 years old, and he chose UB specifically to stay as close to home as possible.
Desi hails from Henrietta, N.Y. and that is where his passion for wrestling began. In the beginning, though, wrestling was his second choice when it came to sports in high school.
"I'm more of a basketball fan," Desi said. "Wrestling and basketball are during the same season so I was kind of hesitant [to give up hoops]. I was naturally good at wrestling so the coaches offered me a spot on the varsity team in ninth grade."
Faced with the choice of varsity wrestling or modified freshman basketball, Desi chose the mat over the court.
In his senior season at Rush-Henrietta High School, Desi won the New York State Wrestling Championship and the Empire State Championship. Things looked to be going great for him as he prepared to start at UB.
But 2007 would not be a good year for the wrestling star. His older brother Jerome, whom Desi had always looked up to and tried to emulate, was arrested and spent three-and-a-half years in jail for home robbery and home invasion.
Desi said that it was a weak case but that his family didn't have enough money to pay for a good lawyer.
"No matter what comes up in his life he always takes the higher road," Jefferson said. "He's always been there for his family. I think… his attitude [is] what makes Desmond a great person."
Things started looking better in September of 2009, when Desi experienced the best moment of his life: the birth of his daughter, Tsajelia.
Desi says he lives for his daughter, and his mother is proud of the dad he is to his child.
"He's a great father figure and a great leader," Jefferson said. "It's like, the breath Desmond breathes, that's how he cares for his child. I can't imagine life without her for him. He's a hands-on father; he's not just talking about it."
Being hands-on doesn't come without a price. Desi struggles to manage the time in the day between wrestling, school, and being the type of father his mother can be proud of. He is thankful that his daughter's mother is able to take such good care of him and their baby.
"[Being a dad] is the greatest feeling in the world, especially when I'm wrestling," Desi said. "Being a good father is something I know I have to do and I knew going into it that it was going to be hard. It's something you have to embrace. The more you think about it, the harder it is."
Desi's crew – Jefferson, Janee (Desi's sister), and Tsajelia – attend every match, and it helps him to see their faces.
"[My daughter] travels with me and goes to all my away and home matches," Desi said. "My mom travels everywhere also. It's a good feeling to look into the stands and see my daughter up there. Even though she probably won't remember it, it's nice just knowing she's there."
Desi has left his mark on UB already and continues to add to his legacy. Senior Jimmy Hamel recently joined the 100-win club and said he's never seen anyone as good as Desi.
"He's extremely confident and he has a swagger about him," Hamel said. "I don't think I've ever seen such a naturally athletic guy. Even when you play basketball with the kid, he's just got these freakish athletic abilities that you don't see every day. His work ethic and mindset are the things that set him apart. He believes he can do anything, and he can."
Hamel isn't the only one who thinks Desi is a good basketball player. Jerome wished his younger brother had played basketball instead of wrestling. In high school, Jerome played sports at the same time as Desi, so making it to a match was never really possible.
When Jerome was in jail, he told Desi that he dreamt of the day he'd be able to come see him do what he does best and that he was proud of the person he'd become. Desi attributes a lot of what he accomplished to the advice his brother gave him when he went to jail.
"He told me that I had to do the right things," Desi said. "That I had to stay in college and take care of mommy and my sister. He told me that I didn't want to end up like him and that he had regrets in his life. But he promised that when he got out he'd fix everything."
Jerome did just that earlier this year when his parole officer allowed him to come watch Desi wrestle for the first time. According to Desi, it was one of the most special moments of his life.
Desi recorded a win in the match against Edinboro.
Last season, Desi surprised himself when he came back from a torn meniscus to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament. He suffered the injury three weeks before the start of the tournament, and the usual rehab time is somewhere between four and six weeks.
Desi trained hard and made it back onto the mat three days before the tournament to begin preparing. He felt that even with the injury, he should've performed better as he was only winning his matches by a point or two. But the accomplishment still motivates him to continue working toward winning a national championship.
Bulls assistant coach Frank Beasley didn't always think Desi had it in him. Stepping up to college-level competition is a big jump, and Desi was used to winning easily in high school. What Desi has turned himself into continues to impress Beasley.
"He wasn't a guy that I had a lot faith in or even liked a lot because he wasn't the hardest worker," Beasely said. "He's turned himself into a hard worker and a leader on this team. There's a reason he's been ranked in the top eight in the country.
"There's a reason he's going to set basically every record in our record books. It's because he's a great wrestler, a great kid, and a great teammate. There are no limitations for Desi Green. He's beaten multiple All-Americans, and if he truly believes he can win a national championship, he'll do it."
After graduation, Desi hopes to enter the UFC and become a mixed martial arts fighter. He's started basic training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but is waiting until after he is done wrestling to start in other disciplines. He looks up to Anderson "The Spider" Silva and wants to be like the untouchable middleweight champion some day.
"There are a bunch of guys who come from wrestling backgrounds [in MMA] and that's me right there," Desi said. "I wrestle, I'm really good at it, and I've been ranked in the top 20 since my freshman year. Josh Koscheck used to be a coach here and he went on to the UFC. I figured it would be a good way to go because I love physical sports."
In the meantime, Desi continues his quest for 100 wins and looks forward to seeing his name in the history books.
"To be able to look in the books and see my name is really exciting," Desi said. "I'm sure someone will come along and do the same thing but hopefully nobody will be able to do it as a sophomore. If they do, that would be pretty impressive considering they'd have to win 50 matches in a season."
When people look back on Desi's career, they're going to see a great wrestler, but those who know him continue to see a great person.
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