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Gators win second state title
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Bulloch Academy's six individual state champions pose with their medals and the GISA Class AAA state team championship trophy Saturday in Macon. - photo by Special to the Herald

    After a winter spent celebrating win after win on the wrestling mat, the only thing more dominant than Bulloch Academy’s individuals at last weekend’s GISA Class AAA state meet in Macon was the Gators’ runaway showing on the team leader board.
The Gators racked up an incredible 253 points — miles ahead of second-place Westfield’s 162.5 — to win the school’s second state championship.
    “I’m so happy for our guys and I’m so proud of them,” Bulloch coach Andy Tomlin said. “They worked for it and they’ve earned this.
    “I’m especially happy for our seniors. They won it all in 2012 as freshmen and they’ve been the driving force in getting us back to the top.”
    Leading the championship charge were six Gators who earned individual state titles in their respective weight classes. Seniors Dylan Stuckey (182-pounds) and Justin Lane (132) each won the third title of their careers while Kyle Samuels (106), Billy Tillman (126), Tyce Lovett (220) and G.C. Kimbrell (285) were all first-timers.
    Kimbrell notched his title on just one good leg as he wrestled the final few weeks of the season with a torn hamstring that was surgically repaired Tuesday.
    Bulloch entered the season as heavy favorites to contend for the team title, but weren’t content to wait on success. Last season, the Gators won the state duals and tried to sweep the entire season’s worth of awards before falling just short and settling for runners-up at the state meet.
    This time around, the Gators left no doubt.
                “I think that we were confident that we could win heading in,” Tomlin said. “But anything could happen. I thought we were in good shape Friday when we finished the day up by 40-something. It was up to 60 early on Saturday and then we really just ran away.”
    The huge margin of victory arose from the complete team effort of the Gators.
    In addition to the six individual winners, two more reached the finals and 13 reached at least the semifinals. All 14 weight classes featured a Bulloch wrestler and all gained at least one point for the team cause, setting a new GISA tournament record.
    It was clear throughout the competition that the Gators wouldn’t be denied. Bulloch led late in last year’s championships, but a string of Westfield wins down the stretch snatched the title from the Gators’ grasp.
    This time around, Bulloch left no doubt.
    “This is what we’ve been working on since last February,” Tomlin said. “These guys don’t miss practices and they put in the work. I think we came into (the championship meet) very focused and ready to win.”
    Four seniors will depart the team before next season begins, but the Gators seem to have established themselves as a statewide power and have no intentions of fading away.
    The future is still bright as Samuels, Tillman and Lovett all return next season, along with a slew of talent that continues to work its way up from the middle school ranks.
    “We’re proud of what we accomplished, but we’ll get right back to work again,” Tomlin said.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.