Some of Bulloch County’s fiercest competitors are hitting the gym this week to take part in the world’s oldest competitive sport.
The annual Gator Wrestling Youth Camp, hosted by Bulloch Academy will be teaching elementary students the basic fundamentals of wrestling through one-on-one instruction by Gator coaches and players.
This week’s camp is the most recent for what may be the fastest growing sport in the region.
“Wrestling is growing so much in our area right now,” said Bulloch Academy wrestling coach Andy Tomlin. “It’s the newest craze in our county and around southeast Georgia. We feel like this is a great way to attract children from not only our school, but others as well.”
The four-day camp stresses wrestling fundamentals and the importance of getting in shape. For three hours a day the children practice throws, counters and standard stances, while also running relays and other conditioning exercises.
“We try to keep the kids as active as possible. A lot of them haven’t had any kind of exercise since winter,” said Tomlin.
Last year’s camp played host to more than 30 children, and a follow-up winter camp saw more than 50 take part in the action.
Despite the growing interest, participation in this year’s camp fell short of expectations. Just 13 children will be attending, due in large part to scheduling, economic struggles and a tighter restriction on the ages of participants — last year’s camp was held later in the summer and allowed for middle school children to attend.
The decreased attendance has not affected the focus of coach Tomlin or the importance of his camp. The lower numbers may actually prove beneficial to the dedicated wrestlers that did show up.
“Most of these kids wrestle for our youth program,” said Tomlin. “They are getting a lot better and the one-on-one approach is really paying off.”
Helping Tomlin throughout the week will be one of Bulloch Academy’s wrestling stars, Blaine Lovett. After qualifying for state in three consecutive years, Lovett managed to place third in last season’s tournament.
“I’m expecting big things out of him this year,” said Tomlin. “I’m real excited to see what he does.”
Lovett works alongside the children and demonstrates to them the proper techniques for wrestling success.
“They have learned a lot,” he said. “I’m seeing improvements already.”
The Gator camp concludes Thursday, as parents are invited to watch their sons put new knowledge to the test and compete in a tournament. All of the participants will be awarded t-shirts and a certificate commemorating the event.
This week’s camp serves as an introduction to the sport of wrestling for many of the youngsters, and coach Tomlin works to ensure that it is an enjoyable experience.
“We want to get them better at a young age, and to get excited about it,” said Tomlin. “We want to have a good mix of both fun and instruction.”
After completing his second day of camp, Tyce Lovett, younger brother to Blaine, summed up the event and his thoughts on wrestling.
“It’s really fun,” he said.
For information regarding next year’s camp, or any others hosted by Bulloch Academy, call (912)764-6297, or visit online at www.bullochacademy.com.