« Back

Graduate Success Stories: Daishawn Tilghman

Dan Altomare   |   Jun 23, 2020

As is the case with so many others, Daishawns' introduction to the sport of wrestling began with a slight misunderstanding. A 7th grader at Belmont Middle School, he and a friend heard about the wrestling team at school & were immediately interested! Excited to learn pile drivers & Stone Cold Stunners, Daishawn quickly realized he wasn’t in for what he’d planned when Coach McCabe began showing single legs, sprawls, and half nelsons.

As Coach McCabe recalls, Daishawn was never one of the kids who took the sport very seriously. McCabe remembers Daishawn as a fun kid to be around who brought a good energy to the room, but didn’t seem to care much about wrestling. Although he never took the sport all that seriously back then, one thing Daishawn valued tremendously was the team culture at Belmont. 

“Guys like Naseen (Pennington), Ernie (Holland), Khasim (Muhmin), Jayshawn (Copeland), and Harold (Anderson), really pushed me to be more than just another city wrestler. They used to whoop me just about every day & it forced me to either get better and take it more seriously, or get out. That might sound like a bad thing, but the difference was that I always knew the guys were doing it to make me better. It was really a brotherhood. They never knocked me down without helping me up.”

Toward the end of Daishawn’s 8th grade season, he flipped the switch. As he began to enjoy the sport, he quickly began to find success. Come the end of the season, he had earned the opportunity to compete in the Area XI Tournament (a regional qualifying event for the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling State Tournament). Daishawn wrestled great throughout the entire tournament. He remembers running through an opponent in the first round with his russian ties & solid leg attacks. His confidence carried him throughout the tournament & eventually into the 3rd place match; a win would qualify him for the PJW State Tournament! As Daishawn was warming up, he realized his opponent would be the same opponent from his first match -- he felt exceedingly confident and it showed early in the match. He earned two early takedowns & had a comfortable lead, which he maintained for the first two periods. Then, he began to gas. His lead dwindled and before he realized it, he found himself in triple overtime. On their feet, Daishawn got to his russian tie, the attack that had worked for him without fail all tournament...except this time, it didn’t. His opponent managed to clear the tie & get in on his own attack. In the blink of an eye, Daishawn’s season had come to an end. He was devastated & remembers crying as he watched his opponent receive the medal he felt could have been his. Then, coach McCabe pulled him aside & shared some simple, yet profound wisdom with Daishawn: “This could be the best thing that ever happened to you.” (Hint: This moment would prove invaluable  for Daishawn down the line.)

Following his years at Belmont, Daishawn attended high school at Mastery Shoemaker & wrestled for Overbrook High School through their schools’ partnership. By any standard, Daishawn’s freshman season was a tremendous success. He finished the season with a 24-12 record and made it all the way to NE Regionals; he even won two matches! Moving forward, Daishawn’s aspirations of becoming a PIAA State Qualifier seemed well within reach.

In his sophomore and junior campaigns, it would be much of the same. Dominating regular seasons, followed by a pair of district XII titles and two postseasons that ended at the regional tournament. Entering his senior season, Daishawn felt significant pressure to get onto the podium at regionals. After failing to qualify for states four years in a row (including 8th grade), Daishawn could feel the clock ticking on his goal of becoming a state qualifier. Entering the postseason, Daishawn boasted a 26-2 record. He earned his 100th victory in the semifinals of the Philadelphia Public League Tournament (1st in Overbrook history), earned his 3rd DXII Title, and a #2 seed at the NE Regional Tournament. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

Entering the tournament, Daishawn was visibly nervous. Although his #2 seed had earned him a 1st round bye at 285, Daishawn was pacing the gym with his headphones in from the onset of the first round. By the time his bout number was called, Daishawn had already mentally exhausted himself. Daishawn would go on to give up 4 locking hands violations (virtually unheard of for wrestlers at his level) and lose his first match of the tournament by 12-11 decision. Coming off of the mat, Daishawn was overwhelmed with defeat. He was certain this would mark his fifth straight year coming up short of his goal. As he got back to his room that night, however, he reflected back on what Coach McCabe had said to him after that devastating loss in 8th grade: “This could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” That lit a fire under Daishawn and refocused him. He chose to learn from his loss rather than crumble beneath it. The next day, Daishawn was fantastic. With 3 wins by fall, Daishawn wrestled all the way back to the consolation finals & earned a 1-0 victory over his opponent from the first round! Following the biggest victory in his high school career, overcome with joy, Daishawn quickly escaped from the gym to make a phone call; to Coach McCabe.

The following weekend, Daishawn ultimately came up short at the PIAA State Tournament, but achieved his goal of becoming a PIAA State Qualifier. With his high school career officially behind him, Daishawn is sad, but excited about what his future holds. Next year, he’ll attend Bloomsburg University as a member of the wrestling team!

With regard to his college decision, Daishawn kept his options open for quite a while. He had a number of schools contact him across DI, DII, & DIII for both wrestling and football. 

While Bloomsburg was always a school he had interest in, it wasn’t really among his top choices until he had an unexpected opportunity to talk with Bloomsburg alumni & PRTC athlete, Richard Perry, out at Fargo.

“When I saw Rich out at Fargo coaching with team Connecticut, I jogged right over to him. I hadn’t seen him in a while, but I remembered him coaching us over the years at Beat the Streets & I knew he was a Bloomsburg guy. After talking to him, as a black role model who had success there, I think that was when I really started looking at Bloomsburg as a serious option.”

From there, Daishawn had a few good conversations with the coaching staff, went on a visit, and the rest is history! We’re so proud of Daishawn all that he’s accomplished so far -- but we’re even more excited for the opportunities that lie ahead of him at Bloomsburg and beyond!

[To close our interview, I asked Daishawn just one question: “What has wrestling taught you about life?” I’ve included our conversation below]

DAN: What has wrestling taught you about life?

DAISHAWN: Wrestling taught me how to be a man. Discipline, honor, how to be a better person. Without wrestling to teach me these things, I don’t know where I’d be. Probably not college.

DAN: That’s awesome. Can you elaborate a little bit on ‘how the sport has taught you to be a man?’ How has it taught you discipline, honor, etc?

DAISHAWN: In terms of discipline, you just have to learn to ‘Trust the Process.’ You can’t force shots; you need to get to your setups first and you probably need to shoot a few times before you actually get in on an attack and score. In life, achieving your goals takes time. You have to do a lot on the backend to get the outcome you want.

For honor, it’s winning/losing with class, learning to act with integrity, and how to take losses on the chin & move forward. In life, especially with that last part, it’s about pushing forward even when you get knocked down.

And when I say wrestling has made me a better person, I think that’s mostly about the people I’ve surrounded myself with because of wrestling. Teammates like Dennis (Belleh) and friends like Jameel (Coles) & Angel (Garcia). Especially with Jameel & Angel, I would never have even met those guys if it wasn’t for wrestling...but it’s not just the wrestlers; it’s the coaches too. Guys like Coach McCabe were really positive role models to me & almost like father figures. I can’t thank my coaches enough for the life lessons they’ve taught me about how to be a man.