The last couple of years has seen the Bulloch Academy wrestling team rise to prominence and even boast a few individual state champions. The Gators are off to another strong start in the 2011-12 season and are looking to take home the ultimate prize.
Last February, Bulloch went to the state meet as a Class-AAA — the highest classification in GISA — competitor for the first time. The Gators showed no intimidation, holding their own against the best competition in the state and finishing in second place as a team.
“We were very proud of our effort last year,” said BA coach Andy Tomlin. “This is still a very young program, and we’ve come a long way. We’ve proven that we can hang with anyone, and this season, we want to be the best.
“We have a lot of very talented guys back on the team, and they’ve put a lot of hard work into preparing for this season, so we’re expecting big things.”
So far, the Gators have performed up to — and beyond — their coach’s expectations.
Earlier this month, Bulloch opened its season facing off against old Class-AA foe Robert Toombs, as well as Class-AAA rival Trinity Christian. The Gators took care of business with ease, but were just getting warmed up.
Last weekend, Bulloch hosted its fourth annual Battle of the ’Boro, featuring the Gators and five other prominent wrestling programs from around the state. Bulloch rolled through the opening rounds of the tournament, defeating Trinity Christian, David Emanuel Academy and Windsor Academy by a combined score of 214-18. In the tournament final, the Gators faced off against Mount de Sales in a matchup of — arguably — the top two squads in the state. If the showdown was a precursor of things to come this season, the Gators have much to look forward to as Bulloch fought its way to a 45-32 win and the tournament title.
Leading the way last week — and throughout the last few seasons — were Mitchell Ball, Daniel Hendrix and Codi Johnson. All three have had a relatively easy go of things so far this season, and for good reason. Bulloch may have come up just shy of the team title last season, but this trio of Gators all won individual championships.
“That’s kind of our three-headed monster,” said Tomlin of his title-holders. “They’re consistently able to go out there and dominate on the mat.”
The fact that Bulloch is already contending for state titles is impressive given the fact that the school didn’t even have a wrestling program when most of the current roster was in middle school.
“It’s a great credit to everyone on this team,” said Tomlin. “They have worked their butts off — a lot of them for years now. Everyone has come such a long way and improved so much.”
Just a little more improvement could be all it takes for the Gators to end this season on top of Class-AAA. In addition to last season’s individual champions, Caleb Bohannan returns this season off of last year’s runner-up showing, and four other Gators with top-six finishes in 2011 are back on the mat.
“We’re always looking for more people to step up,” said Tomlin. “Having a few guys that have won titles is nice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have more. Every point counts looking at the team title, so we definitely need the entire team to perform at its best. We’ve got a full roster with a lot of talent in a lot of weight classes. If we perform our best, we’ve got the talent to win.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.