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State champ Gators working through offseason
BA web
Bulloch Academy wrestlers prepare for practice at the wrestling camp in Jensen Beach, Fla. - photo by Special to the Herald

    The work never ends for Bulloch Academy, home of the 2014-2015 GISA AAA traditional state championship wrestling team.
    The team recently traveled to Florida to participate in the Jensen Beach Wrestling Camp at Jensen High School to round out BA’s summer camp schedule. The five-day camp isn’t just a chance for the Gator wrestlers to hone their skills on the mat, however. The camp provides a unique chance for the team to grow together as a unit.
    “You’re only as strong as your weakest link and when you have a team that has little groups or cliques, it creates an imbalance in your chain,” said BA assistant wrestling coach Kevin Ulmer. “Everybody on this team is together. Everybody loves everybody and everyone is getting along a lot better.”
    The Gators have a few new faces joining the team this year, but for the most part, the Gators will keep a lineup intact that featured 14 state placers last season. Ulmer said a large part of the team’s success came from how well the wrestlers were able to gel together. The Gators program this year is built around youth and experience.
    Camps are just one way to make sure the team is bonding together, Ulmer said.
    “Our main goal in camp is to have a unique bonding experience and get them out of Statesboro and experience something new,” Ulmer said. “The camaraderie gained in camp is like nothing else. They get a personal bonding time when they’re there each day.”
    The Gators hard work over the years has certainly paid off. The team’s expectations are at an all-time high. Since 2007, the Gators have won two traditional state championships and finished state runner-ups three times.
    Some wrestlers described camp as “necessary” in order to stay in shape for the grueling season ahead.
    In terms of leadership, senior Joshua Bohannon said he’s ready to see this team repeat as state champions. 
    “We still have a really good team. We lost a few people last year, but we still have a great shot at winning a state championship,” Bohannon said. “I want to win state and I want to see the guys that I work with go as far as they can. We have some really good kids on this team.”
    Bohannon was a state champion his freshman year and recently placed second in the 2015 season. Bohannon may be a favorite to bring home another individual state championship this year, but first things first is the work to be done in the summer.
    “In order to get better you have to put the extra work in. You have to be prepared for the season,” Bohannon said.
    Outside of Bohannon, juniors Tyce Lovett and GC Kimbrell — both state champions — will also lead the Gators next year.
    Returning state champions Bill Tillman and Kyle Samuels are also favorites heading into the year. Samuels said his camp experience has gone well so far.
    “It’s necessary to get this experience in. You have to wrestler all year,” Samuels said. “I’ve been working in the weight room and training hard just to get ready for this season.”
    The Gators are taking advantage of their time in Florida by learning from some of the best coaches the area has to offer.
    Tom McMatt, a four-year starter and two-time captain at West Virginia University and Greg Jones, a three-time NCAA Division I state champion highlight camp this year.
    “My biggest thing is these kids are in the middle of summer and they’re working so hard. Some of them just lay on the mat because they’re so tired,” Ulmer said.
    Ulmer emphasized that the team competes to get better each day. He also said no one on the team wants to be the weak link in the chain.
    “When you have everybody going out there and everybody wanting to be the best wrestler, well that makes for a great team,” Ulmer said.

    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.