Grappling with an artist: Brennan Wallace has used his skills in Jiu-Jitsu to become an accomplished wrestler at West Forsyth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — One wouldn’t think that martial arts and wrestling would go hand in hand. 

For sophomore Brennan Wallace of West Forsyth, he has proven that wrong.  

Wallace started the martial art of Jiu-Jitsu at 8 years old after encouragement from his father. He had never started wrestling until he entered the 2022-23 school year as a freshman at West Forsyth. He was already quite accomplished in Jiu-Jitsu, and in less than a year and a half, he has become quite accomplished as a wrestler.  

“My Jiu-Jitsu coach told me to start wrestling my freshman year,” Wallace said.  

According to merriam-webster.com, Jiu-Jitsu is “an art of weaponless fighting employing holds, throws, and paralyzing blows to subdue or disable an opponent.” And according to tigermuaythai.com, Muay Thai is, “the national sport of Thailand and cultural martial art of Thailand. It was developed several hundreds of years ago as a form of close-combat that utilizes the entire body as a weapon.” 

Wallace played soccer growing up, but other sports appealed to him. He is so acclaimed in Jiu-Jitsu that he won a national championship last year in his age group.  

“Jiu-Jitsu, I always looked at, it’s like a chess match kind of where you’re going against your guy,” he said. “It can be aggressive but usually it’s super-methodical, like a kind of passive martial art. It’s not too straining on the body, but it’s like a really good athletic sport for people.” 

The Wallace family has moved around the United States because of jobs before settling here in North Carolina. Wallace’s mother, Areli, is Mexican and emigrated to the United States in Arizona to 2008, just around the time Wallace was born. He also has a 23-year-old brother, Eduardo, 20-year-old sister, Karen, and a 13-year-old brother, Joshua.  

The Wallaces lived in Oregon and moved here four years ago. However, Eduardo, who was born in Mexico, stayed there until the family moved to North Carolina. That’s when Brennan enrolled at Clemmons Middle School just before sixth grade. 

“My dad kind of made it enjoyable in a way,” Wallace said. “We lived in Oregon when I started doing Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. And he was kind of like my uncle. It was my dad’s best friend who coached me, and he kind of made it fun for the kids.” 

In addition to winning the national championship in the 14-15 age bracket at 140-149 pounds, Wallace won a state championship in Oregon at 9 years old, and two in North Carolina at the ages of 13 and 14.  

“I didn’t think I was really good until I won the national title last year,” Wallace said. 

Then, Wallace’s dad and Jiu-Jitsu coach encouraged him to get involved with wrestling while training for Jiu-Jitsu. 

“I was taking people down pretty easily, but never really trained (wrestling),” Wallace said. “It was just kinda like get into a body lock and kind of take him down from there.” 

He started wrestling last season as a freshman under the watchful eye of former Coach Jason Hooker. 

“I lied to Coach Hooker,” Wallace said. “I saw him, and my friend was telling me to do it, and I thought there was tryouts. So, I went up to Coach Hooker and I was like, ‘Are you the wrestling coach?’ And he was like, yeah, yeah. And I was like, ‘Well, I’ve been wrestling for like two years.’” 

Hooker put Wallace to the test last year and decided to put him against top competition from the wrestlers at West Forsyth. Wallace said he was “destroyed.” 

Wallace has improved steadily through the past two seasons. Last season he had a 2-8 record overall at 138 and 145 pounds.  

“I have really bad hand-fighting,” he said. “Once I got into contact, I stood there and didn’t know what to do. And then, high-level hand-fighting was definitely something that helped me get better.” 

Much has changed since last season. Wallace has bulked up to 150 pounds, but maybe the biggest thing is that Timmy Allen took over as head coach. 

“He’d come to my workouts, and he was kind of a shy kid,” Allen said. “He didn’t really say a whole lot. So, it’s been a lot of kind of trying to get him out of his shell.” 

Apparently, Wallace was so shy that he didn’t tell Allen that he had won the national championship in Jiu-Jitsu. 

“He’s a smooth little athlete,” Allen said. “So, I’m not surprised. I didn’t know he was that accomplished.” 

Allen readily admits to not knowing much about Jiu-Jitsu. 

“As far as I can tell the biggest thing between Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling is, Jiu-Jitsu is like a submission-based art form,” Allen said. “And they’re comfortable in positions that in wrestling will get you pinned. And that’s kind of what we’ve been working with Brennan.  

“He does some stuff like his Jiu-Jitsu background that will put him in danger in wrestling. So, we’re having to re-train his martial arts to a wrestling base and that’s been difficult.” 

The work has paid off this season. According to Allen, Wallace is 23-10 this season, including 5-1 in the Central Piedmont 4-A. He’s improved so much that he’s qualified for this weekend’s NCHSAA Class 4-A Midwest Regional at Ragsdale High School. 

“It’s a pretty big jump, but once I started the season that was my goal. Like I wanted to at least state-qualify,” Wallace said. “My goal this season was to get to regionals and place top-three hopefully.” 

Although Wallace is inexperienced, he could break through to qualify for next week’s NCHSAA Class 4-A state individual championship at Greensboro Coliseum.  

“I think if he wrestles the way he can, and the way he’s been practicing the last 21/2 weeks, I do think he has a shot to place at regionals and punch his ticket,” Allen said. “I really do.” 

No matter how he fares the rest of this season, Wallace might add another trophy to his mantel in the next two years before he graduates. 

“I think I could be a state champion, maybe even an All-American,” he said. “So, the main goal for me is to be a state champion.”