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Gators have sights set on a title
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Bulloch Academy wrestling coach Andy Tomlin, foreground, watches as his team competes in a relay race Wednesday at practice. - photo by MIKE ANTHONY/staff

    The halls of Bulloch Academy are lined with trophies commemorating successes in just about every sport, but they soon might have to make way for one more.
    In just its sixth season of competition, the Gators' wrestling squad is on the verge of clinching the GISA Region 3-AAA title during Saturday’s region meet at Trinity Christian School in Dublin.
    “I’m proud of all the work that our boys have put into this,” said BA coach Andy Tomlin, who is in his fourth year at the helm. “We’ve certainly come a long way. This program started out with just a handful of kids, but all of the younger guys back then have stuck with it and we’ve been able to get some new guys into the program to make ourselves much stronger.”
    Senior Blaine Lovett has been a part of the program since its inception. Because of Georgia Independent School Association rules allowing for eighth graders to compete in varsity events, Lovett has been with the Gators since middle school and is in his fifth season of competition.
    Lovett now helps to lead a team favored to bring home a region title and is doing his part to ensure the continued success of BA wrestling by helping to coach the Gators’ newly formed elementary school program.
    “It’s been great to see the progress,” said Lovett. “It was rough in the beginning, but now we can compete. It makes me proud to know that I’ve been a part of that process.”
    Now, it’s time for the Gators to bring their story full circle and bring home a region crown.
    Bulloch leads all region members with seven different wrestlers receiving the top seed in their respective weight class and Tomlin is confident that his entire squad can earn a spot in the state meet.
    “These last 72, 48, 24 hours before the region meet, we need to be focused,” said Tomlin. “I think that we have the ability to be dominant, but we have to have everyone show up.
    “We’ve had success at the state and region level on the individual level. We’ve had good team finishes when only a few guys made it to the state meet. This season, we have the talent to bring a full team to state, so everyone has to do their part to get every point that we can.”
    Leading the way for the Gators are a pair of freshmen. In the 103-pound class, Mitchell Ball is undefeated and will is looking to defend his individual state title from last season. At 112 pounds, Daniel Hendrix has dropped just one match this season and is the favorite to take his weight class this weekend.
    The biggest challenger to Bulloch this weekend will likely be Trinity Christian School.
    In addition to the luxury of competing in their home gym, the Crusaders have a deep stable of wrestlers sure to give Bulloch a run for its money.
    “We’ve got some confidence,” said Lovett of the Gators’ victory over their region rival in the Trinity Invitational two weeks ago. “Trinity will definitely be our biggest competition. We’ve got a lot of great wrestlers though, so I think we can pull it out.”
    Bulloch wrestlers will weigh in Friday afternoon before leaving for the region meet. Bulloch will have practice in the Trinity gym Friday night and will have official meet weigh-ins before competition starts early Saturday morning.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.