Mahomes copes through family, athletics
Oak Park-River Forest student Davonte Mahomes, 17, of Oak Park and sister Sheena Harris, 27, of Oak Park. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 11:31AM
On the last day of school at Oak Park-River Forest before spring break, Davonte Mahomes received a text message from his older brother. Their mother, Cassandra, was being taken to a hospital in Joliet.
She soon died from a brain aneurysm on March 25, 2011.
The primary role of taking care of Davonte and his brother Antwan, who goes by the family nickname of “Duke,” fell upon their older half-sister Sheena Harris, 27, who is a foster case manager for a non-profit agency in Chicago.
“I call myself a sister-mom,” Harris said. “I do not try to take over the role of mom. I do want their respect. I discipline when necessary.”
Harris recalled that her brothers were looking forward to a breather from school over spring break, but instead wound up planning their mother’s funeral.
“Nothing prepares a person for such a traumatic, untimely event. Nothing prepares a person for that. It was tragic,” Harris said.
Mahomes, a junior, is one of three undefeated wrestlers for OPRF heading into Thursday night’s Class 3A state tournament in Champaign. Mahomes (40-0) at 160 pounds seeks his first state title after finishing third last season. The Huskies’ other unbeatens are Larry Early (42-0) at 132 and Joe Ariola (42-0) at 182.
When his mother died, Davonte was a freshman and Duke a junior at OPRF. Duke is currently a freshman studying engineering at Northern Illinois.
Harris deals with sudden and tragic deaths on a regular basis with her job in social services. Based on her experience, Harris suggested that her brothers speak to a therapist, but they have been reluctant to do so.
Davonte has relied on his remaining family to get him through tough times. Though alive, their father is not involved in the boys’ lives.
“Everything brought me and my sister and brother (together). We’ve all been close after mom passed,” Mahomes said. “At first, my problem was that I was a little sad for a while about the situation. (Now) it has made me a stronger person. It has motivated me.”
Harris attends all of Mahomes’ sporting events that she can and is a familiar face to all of his coaches. While she was sitting in the balcony after a wrestling practice, OPRF coach Mike Powell gave her a high-five as he passed by.
Mahomes grew up in Plainfield and started wresting at age 5. His family moved to Oak Park after he completed eighth grade. Wrestling at 145, he led the Huskies in wins (34-11 record), takedowns (170) and escapes (53) as a freshman, but did not qualify for state.
Being involved in sports and having teammates from football and wrestling helped Mahomes.
“We have a few football players that wrestle,” Hoerster said. “You get to see what the wrestling program has done for the kids. They are pretty tough (players).”
Mahomes’ goals this season are pretty straightforward — win state titles as an individual and with the team.
“You have to buy into Coach Powell and what it takes to be the best,” Mahomes said. “You have to believe the things he tells you. He’s been there before. He’s been an athlete. He’s been the best and he knows the worst.”