UCF Knight Defeats his Top Rival
UCF Wrestling Club member Justus Griffith had been there before. Staring down the mat at Darius Bunch from Emmanuel College, a Christian Liberal Arts school in Northeast Georgia.
Bunch, the defending National Champion in the 133 pound weight class, defeated Griffith in 2016 and 2017 at the Conference Championships. Despite those losses Griffith still qualified for the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) National Tournament each year, but until 2017 had never moved past the quarterfinals. This was the year he vowed to come home a champion and Justus says he had an angel helping him.
Griffith defeated Bunch in overtime in what wrestling calls a tiebreak two, meaning he pinned his rival for thirty seconds and Bunch could not do the same. It was his first National Championship and All-American honor. Justus, a junior from Orlando’s Doctor Phillip’s High School, says it was one of the greatest feelings he’s ever had, “The person I beat (Bunch) is the only person who has ever beaten me and he won on controversial calls in the past. It felt great to get redemption against him on the biggest stage.”
It wasn’t just redemption motivating Griffith, he says the memory of his late friend from high school, Ian Supra, also kept him going for gold. Supra, an All-American himself in Water Polo, died in November 2015 after an 18-month battle with Esophageal Cancer. At the time doctors diagnosed Supra, they told him he was already at stage three. The cancer kept him from playing water polo at the varsity level (several colleges were recruiting him at the time).
Supra, who grew up in Central Florida, decided to enroll at UCF. He started his fall semester in 2015 and passed away about three months later at the age of 20. Griffith thinks about Supra daily and carries a T-shirt in his honor to all of his competitions. The shirt reads “Supraman has no kryptonite.”
Griffith calls the quarterfinals at nationals his kryptonite, because he has lost twice in that round. This year for inspiration he purposely placed the shirt near the mat. Griffith says he knew Ian’s memory would help pull him through, “I had it on the sideline, propped up on my bag on the side of the mat during the championship match. Every time I wanted to give up during the gold medal match I would look at it and helped to pull me through.’
The T-shirts are just one of the ways friends and family helped to raise money while Ian fought cancer. In months following Ian’s death his mother Jackie started the Ian Supra Memorial Foundation which supports and provides fellowship to young cancer patients. The Water Polo Club Team at UCF recently took part in the first ever Ian Supra Memorial Foundation Tournament.
Justus believes Ian would have gotten so much out of the UCF Sports Club experience. It’s something he doesn’t take for granted, “It puts the focus back on yourself and how bad you really want it. In time you can make anything happen and it’s what I’ve been focused on doing.”
UCF has a rich history in wrestling. Griffith’s gold medal is the 13th individual wrestling National Championship for the Knights. The Wrestling Club at UCF has won four Wrestling National Titles, and finished third overall this year. Griffith’s title is the 29th National Championship in UCF Sport Clubs history. For more information on the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center and the Sport Clubs program, contact coordinator Andrea Snead at 407.823.2408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.