James Jackson finishes fourth, Bearcat wrestling competes at State Tournament

Published 3:05 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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Bainbridge High School Senior James Jackson is the 4th best wrestler in Georgia.

Jackson earned a copper medal in the 150 lbs weight class at the GHSA 4A State Wrestling tournament over the weekend. He and three other Bearcat wrestlers competed at the meet.

“He hung with the best of them,” said Bearcats’ head coach Paul Coleman. “His story, it’s definitely filled with some ups and downs, highs and lows from the past weekend, It’s a roller coaster ride.”

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Jackson started the tournament with a two-point win against Luella junior Aaron Parkey. The first match ended Jackson 8 – Parkey 6.

His next opponent was Troutman junior Waylon Pemberton. Pemberton was a top-two seed in the tournament and gave Jackson his first defeat of the weekend. Jackson fell to Pemberton 11-7. 

The Wrestling tournament was in double-elimination format, meaning a wrestler had to lose twice to be eliminated from the competition. Jackson moved on to face New Hampstead junior Tyler Johnson. Johnson forfeited the match, pushing Jackson through to the next round.

Jackson faced off against Northwest Whitfield senior Nicholas Ramirez, pinning him to advance to the final six wrestlers. Jackson met Southwest Dekalb senior Malik Colquitt in the round of six and beat him 13-9 to move on to the 3rd place match.

While they were wrestling, Jackson’s potential 3rd place opponents were wrestling. Those two wrestlers were Parkey, from Luella, and Pemberton, from Troutman, and the winner would move on to face Jackson.

“He wins his two that guarantees him into the placing,” Coleman said. “And he’s either going to wrestle… the [Troutman] kid that he just lost to earlier on in the tournament, or the kid that he first put out from Luella.”

Troutman’s Pemberton pulled out an overtime victory, and the rematch was set. Jackson and Pemberton will wrestle for third place.

“Since he wrestled him the first time,” Coleman said. “I was able to coach [Jackson up].”

The rematch was closer than the initial face-off, and the match went into overtime after regulation ended in a 4-4 tie. The overtime starts, and during it Jackson uses an injury timeout to assess his knee that was bothering him. The timeout resets the match, and the wrestlers start again. 

During this part of play, Jackson was called for a locking hands penalty. In wrestling, having a penalty called on you gives the other wrestler a point. Also in wrestling, overtime periods are “next point win” scenarios, meaning the first wrestler to score wins the match. Because the penalty called on Jackson automatically gave Wemberton a point, Wemberton was awarded the victory, and Jackson was relegated to fourth place.

Coleman wasn’t happy with a referee’s call deciding a pivotal state tournament match, but said that is ultimately out of his and Jackson’s control.

“Once a referee makes a decision, a referee makes a decision,” Coleman said. “You just have to, you know- it’s not what you wanted. You’ve got to muster up some good sportsmanship, you’ve got to go to the line, shake the hands and go walk out of there.”

Coleman said Jackson was “distraught” after the loss but was able to recollect himself after a short time. 

“At a moment there, we didn’t say nothing,” Coleman said. “I just started helping him take off his shoes, and I brought his clothes over to him. It was one of those unspoken things like, ‘Hey man, it is over, and you need to accept that, but keep your head held high. You did really good. The battle was a tough battle, and that’s all you can say about it.’”

The fourth-place finish earned Jackson a copper medal and a spot on the podium, where he and the top six wrestlers were celebrated at the end of the tournament.

Three other Bearcat wrestlers competed in the State Tournament. Freshman LeTuan Howard wrestled in the 126 lbs weight class and was put out in the first two rounds of competition. Coleman said Howard was at a disadvantage wrestling against older, more experienced athletes. He said he’s glad Howard got the opportunity and hopes it fuels him to make it back next year.

Senior Layton Burris wrestled in the 138 lbs weight class. Burris went 2-2 on the weekend, falling one round short of the top six threshold for the podium. 

Senior Bradley Marshburn wrestled in the 190 lbs weight class. Marshburn went 0-2 in the tournament. Marshburn is better than his result, according to Coleman, but was disadvantaged by a talented weight class and a shortened season due to starting late after the football season.

Overall, Coleman said going to the State Tournament was a great time.

“We had a good time on and off the mats,” Coleman said. “We really appreciated the bonding and just the experience of going to the Georgia High School State Finals for wrestling. It was just a magical experience that you only can witness if you’re there.”