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Having a Ball
Bulloch Academy wrestler Mitchell Ball celebrates one of his 117 career victories. - photo by Special to the Herald

    Bulloch County is no stranger to great teams and amazing athletes, but few individuals can claim to have been as singularly dominant as Bulloch Academy’s Mitchell Ball has been on the wrestling mat.
    When the Gators started up their wrestling program in 2007, Ball was in fifth grade and had no link to the sport aside from other family members having previously wrestled. Up for a challenge, Ball threw himself into the circle and has been nothing short of amazing ever since.
    Now in his fifth season with Bulloch Academy, Ball is a mind-blowing 117-5 for his career and is looking for a fourth individual state title.
    “Mitchell is just an amazing kid,” BA coach Andy Tomlin said. “There are only 50 or so kids who have ever won three individual titles in Georgia. Less than 30 have won four. Mitchell has a chance to join some really elite company and could end up being one of the best to ever come out of the state.”
    Competing for the Gators’ varsity squad a year before entering high school (GISA allows 8th graders to compete in all varsity sports other than football), Ball immediately contended with every opponent thrown at him. He ended the 2009-10 season with a perfect 25-0 record and brought home the Gators’ first individual state title when he dominated wrestlers several years older than him in to 103-pound division at the state meet.
    “I really didn’t know what to expect the first few years,” Ball said. “I just threw myself into the sport and kept learning everything that I could.”
    Ball didn’t miss a beat in his freshman year, duplicating – and improving on – his undefeated mark by going 33-0 and claiming another individual state crown.
    In his sophomore year, Ball jumped up a weight class, but still dominated, running his career varsity record to an absurd 66-0 before finally losing his first match in the state meet.
    All wasn’t lost though as Ball’s leadership and point production helped the Gators claim a team state championship.
    Ball bumped up to the 120-pound weight class last season and regained his dominance. He dropped three matches early on, but compiled a 28-3 record — racking up another individual state title while helping the Gators to a runner-up finish.
    This season seems to be a coronation of Ball’s greatness so far as he is 22-0 on the year and a strong favorite to claim yet another individual title while his Gators have decimated all opponents and are favorites for the GISA Class AAA team championship.
    “Mitchell is the poster child for our program,” Tomlin said. “Not only has he excelled in competition, but he’s a walking advertisement for the program. Walking around with his rings makes a statement and I know he’s encouraged more kids to join us. At this point, he’s like an extension of our coaching staff with the way he conducts himself at practice and during matches.”
    Ball is the most decorated wrestler in any gym he walks into, but the fire to keep improving and succeeding is evident. Despite his gaudy stats, Ball doesn’t take any match lightly and doesn’t spend much time reflecting on his past accomplishments.
    “No one likes losing, so I guess five losses seems like a lot,” Ball half-joked about his career record. “I’ve done pretty well, but there’s still more to do. It definitely be great if we could win another team title in my last year.”
    Current favorites or not, a team title is a tall order and a great way to end what is already an incredible career.
    Then again, nothing seems to be too tough a task for a 120-pounder who looms largest of any wrestlers you’ll see on the mat.

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