As his mother, Natasha, looked on Tuesday, Vernell Hawkins, a two-time state qualifier for Hannibal High School's wrestling program, signed a letter of intent to attend Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan., where he will continue his wrestling career. DANNY HENLEY/COURIER-POST
Vernell Hawkins, a two-time state qualifier for Hannibal High School's wrestling program, has announced he will be attending Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan., where he will continue his wrestling career.
Derek Greening, Hawkins' high school coach, predicts the winner of 39 matches last winter will enjoy continued success.
"I think he will do really good," he said. "He has really improved the last two years. He is going to keep improving. I think his best is yet to come."
Although a roughly six-hour drive from Hannibal, Hawkins said the school felt like home.
"The coaches there can teach me a lot that I couldn't learn here, or anywhere else," he said. "It feels like that's where I should be my first two years (of college)."
While anxious to learn more at Labette, Hawkins is quick to note that he learned several life lessons at HHS under Greening.
"I learned discipline, definitely. I learned how to become a real man, how to stay focused no matter what and to keep grinding no matter what," he said. "No matter the circumstances I learned there is always a way."
Greening noted Hawkins' willingness to work.
"Vernell has always been a very hard worker," he said. "He has always been the guy that showed up for all the extra stuff, summertime and out of season. He shows up in the weight room and works really hard. He's a great kid."
Hawkins said he got his work ethic from his mother, Natasha.
"I saw her work a few jobs to provide for me and my sister," he said. "She gave me the headstrong will to be successful."
Hawkins plans on following in the footsteps of other family members and pursue a career in nursing.
"I grew up in an environment of helping people, so a nurse practitioner was the way to go," he said.
Hawkins appreciated the help he received from the younger wrestlers on the Pirate team, and from members of the football team, who like him also wrestled.
"I can actually say they became my closest friends," he said.