With schools like Southeast Bulloch and Bulloch Academy making names for themselves on the wrestling mat over the last few years, Statesboro High has jumped into the mix.
This season marks the inaugural campaign for the Blue Devils on the mats, and while there is a sharp learning curve, it’s been a fun and productive first season for SHS.
“It’s definitely been an experience for us,” Blue Devils coach Bivins Miller said. “We have a few guys that have some experience, but some of our wrestlers had never even been on a mat when we first started practice.”
For a sport as technical as wrestling, that sort of inexperience could be disastrous. Adding to the pains of starting up a program is the fact that the Blue Devils have had trouble filling out all of their weight classes — costing them points in overall matches. But still, Statesboro has soldiered on and has compiled a 10-17 mark near the halfway point of the season — not bad for a team that is brand new to the sport.
“There’s a lot of athleticism on our team,” Miller said. “Even the guys who haven’t wrestled before have played other sports. We’ve built off of that to try to expand their abilities on the mat.”
Wrestlers like Hunter Aldrich — who has gone 18-10 at the 126-pound weight class — and Landon Harrelson, a freshman who is 22-10 and holds the school record for pins, have taken to the sport quickly and are already excelling. Other team members, such as 162-pound captain Caleb Dominguez (16-8 this season), have a little more experience and are helping to raise the team’s performance level with each passing match.
“At first, everything we did was all about the basics,” Miller said. “We’re still staying pretty basic, but it’s our goal to keep moving forward and continue to improve.
“One of the toughest things about getting this team started is that there isn’t really a feeder program for us. There is some rec-league wrestling, but we’re really missing that step at the middle school level. Some of our guys have experience, but a lot are just walking into this and learning on the fly.”
Miller has also done plenty of learning as he takes on his first formal gig as a wrestling coach. Miller was accomplished on the mat in high school and has coaching experience in other sports, and is bringing the same enthusiasm to his new role.
“It was definitely a transition for me,” Miller said.
“But I think I’ve found a knack for it. I’m comfortable with coaching up our guys on the mat. It was just some other things like fundraising and setting up schedules that was a little new to me. Just like everything else with this team, I think it’s all coming around.”
With just under a month remaining in the season, the Blue Devils are looking to close out strong. Statesboro has a few dual matches remaining on its schedule before heading to region competition at Effingham County in February.
Even for a brand new program, Miller is aiming high, hoping to have a few of his wrestlers qualify for sectionals in Loganville in late February.
“We’re all about moving forward,” Miller said. “We have all of our wrestlers knowing the kind of commitment that it takes to succeed at this sport. I think we can have some success at the end of this season and everyone in this program is certainly focused on improving with each season.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.