A full and experienced roster that includes a reigning state champion, a reigning state runner-up and several returnees and top placers from the last year’s state tournament has Bulloch Academy head coach Andy Tomlin excited about the upcoming wrestling season.
“We have one of the most talented lineups we've ever had in the four years that I have been here,” said Tomlin. “I'm looking to see big things from all of my boys this year, and they know it too."
The Gators kick off the 2010-11 season Wednesday, hosting a tri-meet with Robert Toombs Christian Academy and David Emanuel Academy in the school’s gymnasium at 6 p.m.
“We are excited about finally getting to wrestle somebody besides ourselves,” said Tomlin. “We want to try to get a lot of young guys some time on the mat. I want to see leadership in our older guys. We want to see a lot of intensity from everyone.”
Freshman Mitchell Ball and junior Codi Johnson head the team, which will have a full 14-man roster for the first time in two years.
“When we had a full roster two years ago, we placed fourth as a team,” said Tomlin. “Last year, we only had six weight classifications and we finished ninth. The past three years, we’ve placed in the top 10. We are looking to have a huge season.”
Ball won the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Class AAA state championship in the 103-pound division as an eighth grader while Johnson was the state runner-up at 189. Both are contenders for individual state titles and will try to lead the squad to a first-ever team title.
Sophomore John Gowan, who will be wrestling in the 119-pound class this year, has placed third in the state tournament for the past two years. Senior Blaine Lovett (125) is a three-time state qualifier and placed as a sophomore. Freshman Daniel Hendrix (112) is also a returning state qualifier as well as sophomore Asa Johnson (160).
“Our boys have worked hard this off-season with freestyle and summer camps,” said assistant head coach Brian Jack. “Now is the time when that hard work will all pay off.”
Senior Will Johnson (152) was a state qualifier in 2009 and junior Dillian Finch (145) qualified last year in the Georgia High School Association state tournament.
"This year, our goal is simple,” said Tomlin. “We want to find out what we need to work on early in the season. We want to improve on those things every day in practice and every time we step on the mats. If we can do this, and do it well, we will have a decent shot at possibly capturing the team state title in February.”
Other wrestlers include senior Jonathan Lumpkin (215), junior Caleb Bohannon (171), sophomores Harrison Averitt (130), Matthew Blitch (119) and Robbie O’Sullivan (112), freshmen Eddie Howard (140) and Conner Fordham (285) and eighth graders Dylan Stuckey (135), Justin Lane (103) and Drew Salter (112).
“There is definitely a buzz in the air at practice,” said assistant head coach Jason Fisher. “These kids are hungry.”