To say wrestling has taken Bryan County High School by storm may be a bit much but it’s certainly making waves.
Coach Zach Ledbetter’s third-year program is off to a great start as evidenced by last weekend’s Battle of Bryan in which the Redskins cruised to dominating wins over ECI (42-30), Islands (54-18), Savannah High (54-18) and Bulloch Academy (60-12).
That gave Bryan County a 9-4 record in duals going into a match Monday night at West Laurens in which it would also wrestle East Laurens.
The Battle of Bryan win, Ledbetter said, marked a major achievement for the still growing
program. “It’s the first tournament victory in program history and the first tournament we’ve hosted,” Ledbetter said. “We’re proud of the growth and the dedication these young wrestlers have for the sport. We know great things are coming.”
The sport is still in its infancy stages but the Redskins have fast become a factor in the Class A-D1 ranks and are looking to improve on last year’s surprising Sweet 16 finish.
“We ended year one with eight kids,” Ledbetter said. “This year we have a high school roster of 32 and a middle school roster of 21.
“I still have kids who are asking to come out and wrestle,” Ledbetter said. “We’re getting to the point we’re turning kids away because we don’t have enough space: 53 seems to be the number.”
The Redskins’ top performers in the early going are Tarrell Singleton at 215, Colton Gunter at 138, Jorge Jimenez at 132 and Riley Shuman at 113. Raul Parrish was a top returner at 175 but he has been injured.
Singleton, who is expected to contend for an individual championship, was 12-1 going into Monday’s matches at East Laurens, Gunter is 8-2 with all of his wins coming by pins, Jimenez is 10-3 with nine pins and Riley is 8-2.
One of the reasons wrestling has become so popular, Ledbetter said, is it gives athletes of all sizes an opportunity to compete.
“A 113-pound kid can’t play football,” Ledbetter said, “and he’s probably not going to be tall enough to play basketball. There’s a lot of opportunities for our smaller guys in wrestling.” Gunter, for example, only took up wrestling last year but has developed rapidly to become a key member of the team for what he does on and off the mat.
“Colton is a great athlete,” Ledbetter said. “He brings a lot of leadership to the team.
“He has a leadership role in ROTC which has been a major part of our numbers along with football. All of the other coaches have been behind our program, too, as has the administration which has been good to see.”
Singleton, a twoway starting lineman in football where he has earned all-region honors, was somewhat skeptical about wrestling when he took it up as a sophomore but he’s now a legitimate college prospect.
“Tarrell is a phenomenal athlete,” Ledbetter said. “He works hard every day in the room and when he’s not wrestling, he’s working at something to get better. He works hard every day in the weight room.
“He placed seventh in the state last year and I see him standing on the podium with a medal around his neck this year,” Ledbetter said. “He’s humble and respectful, everything you want out of a young man.
“I think we’ll be a Sweet 16 team this year and if we put the pieces together, we have a shot at the Elite Eight.”
The Redskins will have a dual match at home next Wednesday with Bulloch Academy and will host the Area Team Duals Tournament at 8 p.m. on Jan. 7.
The Bryan County roster: 106: Charlie Hinely; 113: Riley Shuman; 120: Jayden Lee, Graysen Kirkpatrick, Brody Gunter; 126: William Patrick, Zaedyn Janosky, Alexis Clark; 132: Jorge Jimenez, Joshua Leach; 138: Colton Gunter, Julian Nicholson; 144: Josiah Coffey, Evan Cowart; 150: Alyssa Burnsed, Raina Covington; 157: James Slater, Anddreas McKinny; 165: Jaylen Williams, Tyler Clark; 175: Zane Renteria, Devin Murray, Raul Parrish (injured); 190: Carlos Arias, Trevor Wells, Rylan Hernandez; 215: Tarrell Singleton, Elijah Westcott, Nathan Long, Paulo Morales, India Maner; 285: Jet Lewis, Jackson Dryer, Kaylie Dasilva; managers: Aubri Martin, Tristan Ensworth, Braelynn Shuman, Willow Galliger, Makenna Reagan.