The Bulloch Academy Gators continued their dominance on the wrestling mat Tuesday in Americus. The Gators had 13 of their 14 wrestlers place in the state competition, including three state winners, as they captured their sixth straight GISA state championship.
“I felt like we progressed throughout the season, and it culminated in another state title,” said Bulloch Academy coach Eric Dodson. “We qualified all 14 wreslters, and had 13 place which are outstanding.”
The challenge that Dodson faced this year is a good one for a coach to have. Coming off five straight titles the test can be getting the team to understand they are not invincible, and still have to put in plenty of work.
“I took them to a few tough public school matches early in the season,” Dodson said. “I felt like when we went down to Valdosta it was eye opening for one of the guys, to see things they really needed to work on.”
The other hurdle a team that has dominated the sport they way Bulloch Academy has faces is, you are always going to get the other team’s best effort, and you probably aren’t going to be popular outside of your own area.
“We get booed just about everywhere we go,” Dodson said. “When they introduced us in Americus we got booed pretty loudly. I used that as motivation by telling the team there will be a lot of people happy if you lose out there, I challenged them to not allow those people to cheer for a Bulloch Academy loss.”
Individual state champions included freshman Ryan Sullivan in the 106 pound division, and seniors Riley Joyce (170 pounds) and Jake Wasdin (182 pounds).
I was really counting on my seniors, and they came through,” Dodson said. “Jake Wasdin and Riley Joyce both won state titles, while Jesus Gonzalez placed fourth overall. I was also proud of the way Ryan Sullivan finished up a spectacular season with an individual title at 106 pounds.”
The Gators lose only three seniors off of this year’s team, and while two of them were state champs, the Gators should be able to reload again next season.
“We have a lot of talent returning next year,” Dodson said. “Our middle school numbers are a little down, so now the challenge is to get other kids interested in the sport. Right now we still have about 40 kids in the youth program, but I’d love to get that number even higher during the off season.”