MILLEDGEVILLE — Still in its infancy, the Georgia Military Prep School wrestling program has made drastic improvements in the last four years consistently sending individuals to the Georgia High School Association State Sectionals tournament each season.
Last weekend, Coleman Jones made history as the first Bulldog to qualify out of sectionals for the GHSA State Tournament.
Jones earned a 3-1 record to place a program high, third overall in his weight class at the sectional meet.
“He has been consistent through the year,” head coach Garland Riner said. “Being a 10-grader, a lot of the other guys have more experience, but it doesn’t intimidate him. In the fourth year that we’ve been in varsity competition, this is the first one we’ve sent to the state meet.”
Other GMC Prep wrestlers did well like Winston Jones earning fifth place, and Maxwell Hopkins and Brice Adams earning sixth overall, but ultimately it was Jones who punched his ticket to the big dance.
“It wasn’t a total surprise,” Riner said. “We looked at the competition, we tried to do a little strategy here and there, and it’s worked out pretty well.
“When he got the first win, we were saying he’s on the way. When you get the first win early on, you know the dream is alive.”
For Jones, the opportunity to compete at the state level brings more notoriety to the wrestling program at GMC Prep and gives the school something of which it can be proud.
“I felt pretty special being the first one I think,” he said. “It was a pretty big accomplishment for me and the school. I think a lot of times, wrestlers get taken for granted. It’s not a big sport yet, so it feels good to have some big accomplishments that people can hear about at GMC.”
The road to the state meet has not been easy for the sophomore, as he has had to learn a lot this season.
“The conditioning has made a big deal, because he’s been able to wear down some of the better guys and win because he finishes the drill,” Riner said. “He comes to practice ready to work, and everybody else has been very supportive of him. He is all about business, he wants to win. He wants to take it as far as he can.
“I have had several wrestlers continue to come to practice to help him and help support what he’s trying to do.”
With two more seasons of wrestling to look forward to in his high school career, Jones believes this experience will serve as a strong foundation he can build on in future years.
“It feels good to be going into it so young, because it’s kind of a building block for where I need to be going into my junior year and senior year,” he said. “It’s something I can build on and try to do better each year.”
Though he may be young, Jones and the Bulldogs’ coaching staff have big goals for the state tournament.
Carrying that same hard working, go-getter attitude into the final meet, Riner admits: “My goal is to get him on the podium — hopefully toward the top.”