Two men sitting in a small office in Grasspointe, Ohio watched as a large screen flashed on above them. The lights in the room dimmed and the volume gradually increased.
The first few seconds of the digital recording opened up with a basketball court at New Vegas University, which was filled to its capacity by a crowd that was cheering almost to the point of madness. There was a large, black and blue circular mat lying in the middle of the arena floor. The sport of wrestling hadn’t been very popular for most of the school’s history.
Three years ago, one man had changed all of that.
Walking toward the center of the mat was a young man with a bald head and a cardboard brown goatee surrounding his mouth, his strong and slender body perfectly filling into his black and blue wrestling tights. He looked across the mat and stared into the eyes of his opponent. They shook hands and then he smiled to reveal the black mouth guard over his teeth. The referee stepped in the middle of them, made a motion with his hand and the wrestling match began.
Israel James took his opponent to the mat with a single-leg takedown to score his first point. From there, James crawled on top and tied his opponent’s head under his arm. He pulled and pulled with all his might as his opponent was squirming beneath him.
With a headlock tightly fastened around his opponent’s neck, Israel James leaned forward until his opponent’s shoulders were touching the mat. And after a few moments, the referee smacked the mat with his palm to signal that James had earned a pin fall victory. The match was over in just twelve seconds.
During his brief two-year collegiate wrestling career at the New Vegas University, Israel James was undefeated in his weight class, with the last win making him 505-0. But even at 170 pounds, Israel James couldn’t be stopped by anyone.
He often took matches that were outside of his weight class. The bigger wrestlers were thought to be stronger that him. They weren’t. The smaller wrestlers were supposed to be faster than him. They weren’t. The more experienced wrestlers were supposed to overwhelm him with superior techniques. They didn’t.
Israel James again shook his opponent’s hand, then the referee raised his arm to declare him the victor and the whole arena erupted with cheers and screams, chanting in unison: “Is-ra-el! Is-ra-el! Is-ra-el!”
The lights in the room returned and the digital recording suddenly stopped, pausing on the victorious face of a man who had once been New Vegas University’s most celebrated athlete. Given the man’s current circumstances, that seemed like a very, very long time ago.
The two men exchanged a look. Things were getting bad in Rosetown. Would Israel James be of any use to them?
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