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BA set to start wrestling season
W BAwrestlingCaleb bohannon vs  rtca
Senior Caleb Bohannon was the state runner-up at 171 last season. - photo by Special to the Herald

   This could be the year for the Bulloch Academy wrestling program.
    Last season, the Gators were state runners-up in GISA Class AAA and had three individual state champions. Only three graduated from the squad, leaving head coach Andy Tomlin with a lot of talent and experience for the 2011-12 season.
    “We are definitely blessed,” Tomlin humbly said. “We are blessed with a super group of kids, great support from the students and school administration and fantastic support from the parents. We have been working hard since the summer to reach our goals of achieving excellence and building to a championship. It’s going to be exciting season.”
    The Gators kick off their schedule Monday, hosting a tri-meet in the school’s gymnasium at 5 p.m. with Robert Toombs Christian Academy from Lyons and reigning Class AAA state champion Trinity Christian School from Dublin.
    “Trinity beat us by 27 points for the state title last year,” said Tomlin. “We took a group of a couple of good wrestlers and some inexperienced kids and came out as state runners-up. Nobody expected us to do what we did. It was done through hard work, sacrifice, dedication and, even though wrestling is an individual sport, putting the team first.”
    Senior Codi Johnson and sophomores Mitchell Ball and Daniel Hendrix captured individual state championships as the Gators came close to taking the Class AAA crown. All three return and will head a very talented squad of grapplers.
    “We have so much talent returning,” said Tomlin. “All total, there were nine state placers out of a 14-man crew last year. But the kids want more this year.”
    Ball is the two-time defending Class AAA state championship in the 103-pound weight class. Over the past two seasons, he has accumulated an amazing 44-0 record.
    Johnson took the state title at 189. He was 26-0 with 23 pins and was the state runner-up at 189 in 2009-10. Hendrix won the state championship at 112. He went 25-1 during the season.
    According to Tomlin, all three will wrestle up in weight classification this season but they are still pre-season favorites to continue their state-championship reigns as they lead the squad in the hunt for the elusive state trophy.
    Senior Caleb Bohannon was the state runner-up at 171 last season and will provide good leadership this year with his intense work ethic.
    Other ‘top six’ finishers who are returning are senior Dillan Finch (145), juniors Harrison Averitt (140) and John Gowan (125) and sophomore Eddie Howard (135). All are integral cogs in the Gator machine.
    “We have a lot of wrestler-to-wrestler coaching,” said Tomlin. “That’s why this group is so special. The guys are such a tight-knit group. It’s such a family-type atmosphere because all of the guys help each other mentally, physically and emotionally.”
    Other wrestlers for the upcoming campaign include senior Conner Reed (215), juniors Asa Johnson (189), Mitchell Smith (152), Loy Waters (160) and Mathew Blitch (130), sophomore Conner Fordham (285) and freshmen Dylan Stuckey (152) and Justin Lane (106).
    According to Tomlin, the weight classes for high-school student athletes were changed this past summer. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) wrestling rules committee approved an upward shift of the weight classes. The 14 new weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
    “It’s the first time since 1988 that the weight classes have been changed,” he said. “It was done because of the natural growth of kids and the gaps between some classes were so great.”