Jamario, Jaquan, Jailen, and Teague are teammates on the J.O. Johnson High School wrestling team in Huntsville, Alabama. Led by their passionate coach, they are trying to qualify for the State Championships but the pressures off of the mat – emotional breakdowns, racial profiling by the police, teenage pregnancy – are mounting for each of the young men. Over the course of the season, director Suzannah Herbert gracefully follows each of them, showing that the sport is what keeps them focused and in control of their lives.
From grueling practices and close ups on the mat to scolding by their parents to fights between coach and student, it is clear that these young men are under immense pressure to perform their best. Herbert’s thorough access into their lives captures their tremendous athleticism at odds with being a teenager in the South. Intimately moving between the practice mat to class, the heart of the film becomes a fight between circumstance and perseverance leaving you rooting for each of these exceptional contenders no matter what the odds.
This title is a part of SFFILM’s Launch Initiative, having its World Premiere for the film industry along with the Festival’s discerning audiences.
Suzannah Herbert wrote, directed, and edited two documentary shorts, Central Park: The Park at the Center of the World (2010) and Home Game (2011). She makes her feature documentary debut with Wrestle.
Lauren Belfer produced the series Teen Mom 2 and the films Hotline (2014) and After Louie (2017). She was also an archival producer on Tickling Giants (2016) and Michael Moore in TrumpLand (2016). She directed Facade (2010), a documentary short, and 22 episodes of Teen Mom 2. Wrestle is her feature documentary debut.
Director Suzannah Herbert, co-director Lauren Belfer
Producer Lauren Belfer, Steven Klein, Seth Gordon, Mary Rohlich, Suzannah Herbert
Editor Pablo Proenza
Cinematographer Sinisa Kukic
Music David Wingo and Graham LeBron