Bearcat wrestling takes step forward in weekend tournament

Published 3:56 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

The Bearcat wrestling team took a big step forward in a home tournament over the weekend.

The team finished second place in the 8-team competition, going 6-1 and improving their overall record to 12-7. Bearcats’ Head Coach Paul Coleman said he was pleased with the effort his team gave and seeing practice time turn into positive results.

“We did a lot of good things,” Coleman said. “I was happy overall… It’s always good to win at home.”

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The Bearcats started the Friday-Saturday tournament with a 66-12 victory over Pelham High School. 

They then endured their only loss of the weekend to Vidalia High School in a 46-24 defeat. Coleman said he knew the Vidalia team was going to be tough.

“I was over there scouting them out,” Coleman said. “I walked over to [the assistant coach], and I said, ‘You put the best versus the best out there.’”

Senior wrestler Zachary Burdick suffered his first loss of the season in the matchup, but Coleman said he was encouraged by the way Burdick handled the defeat.

“[Burdick] came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I feel like I didn’t wrestle my best. If I caught that same kid again, with some more preparation, I got him,’” Coleman said. “That gives me some hope, gives me some encouragement… it was good to hear that from him.”

They then faced Lamar, beating them 42-36. Coleman said he was impressed by senior wrestler James Jackson in the matchup.

Jackson, a football player in the fall, started the wrestling season late due to football playoffs overlapping with the start of the season. According to Coleman, Jackson excels in a physically focused wrestling style, and the two have been working on Jackson’s technique to equip him with more tools to secure a victory. 

Coleman said they had run through specific scenarios in practice leading up to the tournament, and Jackson was put in the exact scenarios in the Lamar matchup.

“He was down in the match like 10-4,” Coleman said. “Some of those situations actually came up… We had a small break in between rounds; he kind of looked over at me, and I kind of looked over at him, and it was like one of those unspoken coach-player things. He kind of shook his head; he knew what I was wanting him to do.”

Jackson pinned his opponent in the next round, winning the match and coming back from a substantial deficit.

“That was a big deal,” Coleman said. 

The Bearcats went on to win the next four matches, propelling them to the 2nd place finish. They beat Cairo 42-36, Grace Christian Academy 78-4, Wewahitchka High School 59-17 and Monroe 65-18.

Coleman said he’s looking toward region competition now that the home tournament is over. The team has one more regular season competition — a 3-team event against Dothan and Enterprise — until the region tournament on Jan. 13. 

“When we start region, that win-loss column, I tell them to throw it out,” Coleman said. “You want to gain all the experience that you can in this really short, pre-playoffs series.”

The Dothan competition is next for the Bearcats. They will travel to the Alabama school on Jan. 4th, 2023.