The heart of a champion… Morton will leave an unparalleled championship legacy at Elizabethton High
When Jonathan “Deuce” Morton walks onto a football field or into an arena where a wrestling match is about to start, the young man blends in with all the other athletes who are preparing to take the field for a football game or take the mat for a match.
However, when the pads are strapped on and the helmet is buckled on the gridiron and the color leg wrap and headgear are secured at the start of a wrestling match, there is a transformation almost paralleled to when David Banner turns into the Incredible Hulk as Morton turns into a machine that knows only one speed — overdrive.
As a Sports Editor, I have had the privilege of watching this young man advance through the years as a member of the Elizabethton Cyclone football team and the last two years maturing into one of the strongest strategists on the wrestling mats.
One thing that I have always found is that when the Deuce is loose, it is a bad situation for the opposition whether on the football field or on the mat.
When trying to figure out what makes a champion, one only has to look at Morton who now will be leaving Elizabethton High School at graduation as a five-time state champion in four years of participation in football and wrestling.
Two of those championships came as a member of the Elizabethton High School football team which is the defending back-to-back BlueCross Bowl Class 4A State Champions and the last three have come in individual competition as a member of the Cyclone wrestling team.
And when Morton is around, all you have to do is listen as on the football field he lets his opponents know what is coming their way while on the mat the young man doesn’t have to say a word as he quickly moves in for the pin often in a matter of seconds from the start of the match.
Probably one of the greatest memories that I have of Morton came this past football season in the semifinal football contest played at Nolensville High School in Nashville.
It was early in the game and Morton went in on a hard stop on a Nolensville player when his helmet somehow buckled up on the linebacker forcing the tough Morton off the field.
Walking past the injured Morton, he was in a lot of pain but wanted back into the game and the Cyclone athletic training team placed white gauze in Morton’s nose and mouth to stop the bleeding and then wrapped the young man’s head with transparent ankle gauze to keep the packing in place.
The next thing you know, Morton was back on the field helping his team to soundly defeat the Knights to advance to the 2020 state championship game where once again he played a tremendous role in leading his team defensively to the victory.
After the accident at Nolensville, his parents visited two Nashville hospitals where nothing could be done to help the young man who had severed part of his lower lip in the accident so they made the four-hour trip back to Johnson City to get him the needed help.
Coming back from that injury in a short time just showed the heart of a champion that Morton possessed.
Fast forward to this past week in Chattanooga where the 2021 TSSAA state wrestling championships had been relocated to and Morton had one final piece of business that he wanted to take care of before his time at Elizabethton High School was up and that was to secure his third consecutive state wrestling title.
The past two seasons, Morton had participated in and won the 195-pound class but in 2021 he moved up to the 220-pound class. Most interesting was the opponent that Morton had defeated in the 2020 championship, Caleb Wolfe of Pigeon Forge, who had also made the jump.
Could it have been because Wolfe wanted that one final shot at Morton? More than likely and that is just how the brackets worked out with Morton only having to go to sudden death with Rob Atwood of Trousdale County to make it to the finals against Wolfe.
After revenging a loss to Wolfe in the individual regions at Elizabethton High, Morton put the exclamation mark on his prep career by pinning Wolfe in 5:15 of their match.
There will probably not be another wrestler to come through Elizabethton High School in the near future like Morton according to his high school wrestling coach Eddie Morrell.
However, the legacy that Morton is leaving behind is one of a champion showing others who follow in his wrestling footsteps that hard work, execution, and being pushed to the limits will help lead to the championship podium if they buy into the program being built at EHS by Morrell and others.
And while Morton will be missed on the football field as well, those who have watched from afar also know from what they have seen from Morton what it takes to make the Cyclone football program a championship program for years to come.
Morton will be taking his talents to Pikeville College in the fall where he will continue to play football.
After filling up one hand full of championship rings, at least he has another one to add future championship rings to as a collegiate athlete.