State Champ James Jabaley Passes Away

Former Notre Dame Wrestler

Thursday, November 7, 2013 - by B.B. Branton

"Everyone loved Jabo ... He was popular and had that infectious smile ... on the mat he had cat-like quickness, was tough and was known as a fine technician."

-- Notre Dame head coach John Mullin who was a teammate of James Jabaley in the mid-1970s.


In his final high school wrestling match (Feb.18, 1978), Notre Dame senior James Jabaley remembered his late brother, Charles, by wearing his old white uniform and won his third state title.

Today we remember "Jabo" with his infectious smile, unbelievable heart and tremendous toughness.

The former three-time state champ (1976-77-78) died Tuesday of cancer and left behind nothing but great memories for those who knew him.

A Funeral Mass will be held Mon. Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Catholic Church on Moore Road in Brainerd.  Burial will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

"Not only did he have exceptional talent as a wrestler, but more impressively, he had an unbelievable heart which was a huge source of inspiration to those around him," said 1968 Notre Dame state champion Yogi Anderson who coached Jabaley for three years. "I am grateful to have been his friend and it was an honor to be his coach."

In winning that final state championship, he was also selected as the state tournament outstanding wrestler; the third Irish wrestler to be so honored following Pez Whatley (1969) and David Weeks (1973).

"James was always smiling and a nice guy, yet extremely tough on the mat," said 1975 East Ridge state champ Danny Gilbert.

"James was a great athlete and a great person. He was unique in so many ways," stated 1968 Notre Dame state champion Ken Mara.

One of four wrestling brothers, "Jabo", who lost two matches his final two seasons, led the Irish to district and region team titles as a junior in 1977 and joined with fellow Irish state champs Robbie Gaddis and Art Johnson to finish third in the state in 1978.

James Jabaley - Three-time state champion, Notre Dame

(also won district and region titles, twice)

State Finals

1976: 105 pounds ...  James Jabaley won as Tommy Bonner (East Ridge) defaulted due to breaking team rules

1977: 105 pounds ... James Jabaley (ND) dec. Greg Wingo,

1978: 105 pounds ... James Jabaley (ND) dec. Bill Barbee (Baylor)


contact B.B. Branton at


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