In the weeks leading up to the GISA traditional wrestling championships, Bulloch Academy wrestling coach Andy Tomlin was reluctant to use the word “dynasty” when referring to the Gators’ recent accomplishments.
After winning the GISA traditional state championship Saturday, Tomlin finally admitted the Gators have built a dynasty at BA.
“Yeah, you can say that,” said Tomlin, laughing. “Kevin (Ulmer) and I have worked our tails off to make sure we keep feeding this program. It’s not just about the numbers. These kids are good and these kids are competitive. We have a great group here.”
The Gators’ starting roster had a dominant display at the state championship at Georgia Southwestern State University.
All 14 wrestlers BA qualified to the state tournament placed in Saturday’s event.
Kyle Samuels (120) and Hunter Marlowe (126) dominated their way through the competition. Both pinned their way to titles and finished in first place. For Samuels, it was his second consecutive first place finish.
Jake Nelson (138) had a strong performance, finishing in first place along with 195-pounder Seth Conner.
In the 106-pound weight class, Jake Wasdin capped off his season with a second place finish at state. Brandon Merill (145), Wilson Joiner (160), Garrett Williams (170), Tyce Lovett (220) and GC Kimbrell (285) earned second place finishes for the Gators. Thomas Bowen won third in the 182-pound weight class while Lawson Anderson (132) finished the day in fourth place. Riley Joyce earned a fifth place finish in the 113-pound weight class.
“I was so proud of our kids. I wish we could of pulled it off with our 170-pounder and 220 and 285 with our juniors,” Tomlin said. “But, I look at it as it’s the best thing that could've happened to those three. Now they’re hungry for next year.”
For senior Joshua Bohannon, Saturday’s state tournament ended a storied career at Bulloch Academy. Bohannon, who battled his fair share of injuries to start the season, went out on top with a championship in the 152-pound weight class.
“I’m glad that we could come together as a team and achieve what we did. Not just one year, but two years,” Bohannon said.
Bohannon was also a member of Bulloch Academy’s 2012 state championship team. Bohannon followed the footsteps of his brother, Caleb. Caleb, who graduated in 2012, won a state championship his senior year as well.
Saturday in the finals, Caleb asked coach Tomlin if he could help coach his little brother to a victory.
“It’s a legacy. What we’re building here. The kids that are younger and will be coming back have a chance to win more than I did,” Joshua said Monday afternoon. “(Caleb) came out (to Bulloch Academy) his junior year and got second and his senior year he won state. He set the example for me. He’s the reason I wrestle and my oldest brother wrestled. It’s kind of a culture within my family. We have a tight group of guys and towards the end, it’s like leaving your brothers. I’ll miss it and I’ll miss being out here with all the guys I’ve been around. We endured a lot of hardships.”
The Gators had to face and overcome yet another hardship as a team during the state finals. However, this particular hardship didn’t involve any wrestlers on the mat.
Tomlin said during the state championships over the weekend, several attendees in the stands began to “boo” his wrestlers.
“We’re confident and our kids are confidence in what we’re doing. We stand by the product we put on the mat. We’re proud and it’s nothing we’re ashamed of. Our parents or our kids have never cheered against anyone,” Tomlin said. “One goal I wanted to have is this program be bigger than me. Sometimes when a coach leaves, whenever that day may come, the program falls apart. But our kids are high-character kids and I think these guys will keep it going. We’re like a family. No, we are a family.”
The future appears bright for the Gators’ wrestling program. The team will return 13 of the 14 state placers from this season. Several of which are just sophomores and juniors.
“We plan on going out of state next year. We’re going to Florida and South Carolina next year. We’re going to bring everyone back next year. We thought last year’s team was tough,” Tomlin said. “The goal now is to win three in a row. We want to win three championships.”