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Freshman Ball doesn't get pushed around for Gators

Freshman Ball doesn't get pushed around for Gators

Freshman Ball doesn't get pushed around for Gators

Bulloch Academy freshman Mitchell Bal...

    For most wrestlers, winning a state title as a freshman would be a momentous occasion. For Bulloch Academy’s Mitchell Ball, it would merely seem like déjà vu.
    Last season, Ball was able to wrestle at the high-school level due to a stipulation in the Georgia Independent School Association rules which state that eighth graders may participate in any sport except football at the varsity level.
    Despite being younger than every single one of his opponents, Ball was never fazed and he rolled to the Class AAA state title with a perfect 31-0 record at the 103-pound weight class.
    “Mitchell is really a great talent,” said BA coach Andy Tomlin. “When I first took over in 2007, Bulloch Academy didn’t have much of a youth program for wrestling. Mitchell was one of the first guys to really stand out and it’s amazing how far he’s come.”
    Although Ball has continued his dominance at the 103-pound level by extending his career record to 39-0 this season, he remains aware of the dedication that it will take to maintain his high level of performance.
    “Wrestling is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Ball. “Just eating right and making weight can be as tough as training and practicing. I would never give it up though. Once you start, it’s impossible to stop.”
    While Ball has had an easy time with most opponents, he has also gone out of his way to ensure that he is always facing the best competition possible.
    Jay Moore transferred from public school to Robert Toombs Christian Academy and has been touted as one of the wrestlers to beat at 103 pounds.
    Ball has already faced off against Moore twice this season and has come away with impressive wins in each match.
    “Mitchell pinned (Moore) the first time they met,” said Tomlin. “The second time, he won in a big decision of 9-2 or 8-2. When you go to the state tournament, you don’t see many pins or lopsided scores, so for Mitchell to look so good against one of the best in the state was very impressive.”
    Still, Ball isn’t letting his initial success go to his head. Bulloch has its eyes set on a state title this season and with many other Gators sporty gaudy records early in the season, a team title is the ultimate goal for this season.
    “Everyone here works hard,” said Ball. “We all push each other hard. It helps that we have a lot of good wrestlers at weights that are close together. It makes for really competitive practices.”
    Many times it’s heard that for great individual performers like Ball, the only thing that can get in their way is themselves. This is especially true for wrestlers at the high-school level.
    Standing a little over five feet tall and always fighting to stay at the 103-pound level, a growth spurt is something that could really throw a wrench into the plan.
    “You know that he’s eventually going to get taller and bigger,” said Tomlin. “All you can really do is hope that it happens over the offseason.”
    Until then, Ball will remain a dominant force in his weight class and figures to be the early favorite to repeat as a AAA state champion.
    “It was hard to get there last year, and it’s even tougher to stay there,” said Ball. “I know that people are gunning for me, but that just drives me to work harder. Like I said, once you start going, you can’t stop.”

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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