Less than a decade ago, high school wrestling programs in Georgia weren’t all that easy to come by aside from the Atlanta area. Thanks to some recent success stories and top-notch instruction, a lot more attention is being paid to those hitting the mats in South Georgia.
Thursday marked the first day of camp hosted by Georgia Southern University at the Recreation Activities Center on campus. Now in its fourth year, the camp has seen plenty of growth in both size and anticipation.
“This year, especially, has really turned a corner for our camp,” GSU club wrestling coach and camp director William Hurst said. “When we first began this camp, we were just a few people in a middle school gym. The last two years, we’ve been able to move things over to GSU and this year has seen our biggest turnout yet.”
More than 50 campers have shown up to hone their skills in the offseason and this year’s edition of the camp has some extra help.
While Hurst remains the director of the camp, former NCAA Division I champion Bubba Jenkins and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion Dustin Kawa joined the camp as instructors this season.
Jenkins and Kawa bring their expertise and star power, but the GSU camp — just like any other — is mainly about teaching and reinforcing the fundamentals of the sport.
“It’s all about repeating and perfecting the basic moves of the sport,” Hurst said. “We have teams and individuals here that are looking to win championships.
“At that level of competition, it’s usually the guy that is the most technically sound that wins. That’s what we’re here to work on.”
That message has been heard loud and clear as the GSU camp has increased its draw dramatically since the first camp in 2009. This year, the camp is being attended by nearly the entire rosters of Bulloch Academy, Statesboro High School and Southeast Bulloch High School, along with wrestlers from Augusta, Columbus and Valdosta.
“We’re reaching pretty much every corner of the state,” Hurst said. “I think that speaks pretty well about the camp. But in the end, it’s just good to know that we can provide a good atmosphere and opportunity for these kids to learn and grow as wrestlers.”
The Bulloch Academy Gators are attending the camp with hopes of keeping their performance at the highest level.
Though still a relatively new program, the Gators have quickly risen to power. Coach Andy Tomlin had his team threatening to win the GISA Class AA crown before Bulloch moved to Class AAA. The Gators needed just two more seasons to complete the climb to the top of GISA’s highest classification as they brought home the state crown this past spring.
With much of the
championship squad returning for the 2012-13 season, the Gators are spending their offseason training to turn their formidable team into a dynasty.
“Our main goal has been to stay motivated this summer,” Tomlin said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect from our guys once they got those rings.”
The GSU camp and its elite level of instruction is just what Tomlin is looking for.
“Knowing that All-Americans and NCAA champions will be coaching you is exciting when you’re a kid,” Tomlin said. “Not only are our guys getting top-of-the-line instruction, they’re able to get these great clinicians in their own backyard.”
Whether it’s a proven champion like Bulloch Academy, an upstart program like SEB, or a school just getting its feet on the mat like Statesboro, all of the schools and individuals in attendance at the GSU camp are getting a great head start on the upcoming season.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.