At just 10 years old, Bray Emerine has won a state wrestling triple crown.
The youngster from the Richmond Hill Elite Wrestling club swept the championships of his weight class in all three styles — folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman — in USA Wrestling’s 2015 Georgia state tournaments.
He also took first place in freestyle and Greco-Roman at the USA Wrestling Southeast Regional in Atlanta. Those two wins, combined with his three state titles, gave Emerine the prestigious “five-point” championship.
“He’s the first five-point award winner and triple-crown winner in Richmond Hill history,” said his father, Brad Emerine.
Add to it a championship at the AAU Spring Youth Nationals in Kingsport, Tennessee, and it’s been quite a spring for the rising fifth-grader.
All the more impressive is that Bray is in just his second year of wrestling. He said he was drawn to the individual competition of wrestling, and the best part is having his hand raised by the referee as the match winner.
“I like team sports, too, but one-on-one sports, you don’t have a team to rely on,” he said. “And getting your hand raised is awesome.”
Bray has experienced that thrill often. His record this year is 51-3, with his three losses coming to opponents from out of state.
Bray’s state triple-crown run began in March at the folkstyle tournament at the Georgia Dome. He didn’t allow a point to any opponent in rolling to five straight wins, capped by a 15-0 victory for the championship.
After winning state and nationals in folkstyle, Bray shifted his training to the different styles of Greco-Roman and freestyle. He won the gold medal in both at the state meet in Lawrenceville on the last weekend in May.
“His hard work is paying off,” Bray’s father said.
Brad credits his son’s practice partners and coaches, led by coach Dan Krug, for the development Bray has shown from his first year of wrestling to his second. Practices aren’t easy, as Bray often goes against wrestlers who are two to four years older than he is.
“He’s wrestling 12-, 13-, 14-year-old kids,” Brad said, “but it’s helped him because, when he faces other 10-year-olds, he’s beating them.”
When Bray isn’t in the gym, he often practices at home. The family has a wrestling mat at their house, and Brad said he often stands in as a “practice dummy” for Bray to work on his wrestling moves.
But as much as Bray loves wrestling and as hard as he works, Brad and his wife, Cheryl, don’t let it become their son’s biggest priority. He can wrestle as long as he continues to bring home good grades during the school year.
“If he’s not bringing home A’s, we’re not on the mat,” his father said. “Our goal, first and foremost, is education. And then we focus on wrestling.”
That is one of the life lessons wrestling has taught his son, Brad said. Another is that Bray eats healthy to maintain his wrestling weight, a discipline that isn’t always easy for a 10-year-old when he sees his friends snacking on junk foods.
Bray also is showing more maturity at competitions. He was prone to pout when he lost a match during his first year, according to his father, but he now treats his losses — rare they may be — as learning experiences.
“We have a saying in the house: ‘We don’t win or lose; we win or learn,’” Brad said. “This sport is showing him that you have to accept challenges. This is preparing him for life.”
The family also might want to clear more space for Bray’s wrestling medals and trophies. He plans to continue with the sport for several more years.
“I want to keep wrestling until I get older,” Bray said.