MILLEDGEVILLE — Marking the first time in the history of the programs, both Baldwin High and Georgia Military Prep School sent a wrestler each to the Georgia High School Association state tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Both Markeith Driskell and Coleman Jones placed well at their respective sectional meets two weeks ago.
BHS has traditionally sent at least one competitor to the championships, but this year GMC Prep sent an individual for the first time.
“I think wrestling is growing here in Milledgeville, and not just here at Baldwin and GMC, but now we’ve got John Milledge [Academy] coming in,” BHS head coach Andrew Lindsay said. “We’re excited to have it become a more looked-at sport here in Baldwin County; because, it’s been growing in other counties. It’s fun to be a part of a sport that’s growing in numbers and growing in interest.”
In his first time at the big dance, GMC Prep’s Jones placed an impressive fifth place overall in the 285 pound weight class for the Class-A competition held at Commerce High School.
“It was all really good, and he did a great job,” GMC Prep head coach Garland Riner said. “The GHSA did a great job of accommodating the state championship.”
Finishing with a 2-2 record on the weekend, claiming one pin in the second round, Jones showed much promise at the state level.
“All of his matches went into the third period or into overtime,” Riner said. “A lot of the other coaches were coming up to him giving him words of encouragement. With him being a 10th-grader, he has a lot of potential.”
Jones wrestled as an individual in the two-day tournament, but Riner admits the sophomore could not have performed as well as he did without the help of his brother this season.
“Logan [Jones] was with him all week long to give him someone of comparable size to practice with,” Riner said. “They worked real hard to get to the spot they were in.”
With a bright future ahead of him, Jones is already planning on being a top contender in the Class-A competition next season.
“He’s been all-business, and he’s already talking about going to camps this summer,” Riner said. “His goal is to be on the top podium, and I could see that very easily.”
Riner believes with the support from administrators and staff at GMC Prep, the wrestling program should do very well with the young group returning next year.
“It’s a big deal. All of the administrators and teachers have been very supportive,” he said. “I’m hoping that going to state competitions is going to be a regular thing for GMC.”
Qualifying wrestlers for state has already become a tradition for the BHS program in recent years; however, the BHS participant this season experienced the state-level competition for the first time in his young career.
Driskell went in as an eighth seed and finished 0-2 at the tournament, but wrestled well against some of the best in the 113 pound weight class for Class-AAAA, hosted by West Laurens in Dexter.
“He did OK — he wrestled well,” Lindsay said. “His first match, like I said before was going to be a very tough match. He actually scored some points against him, and it ended up being one of the best matches he’s had all year.”
Not only did Driskell wrestle well against the stiff competition at state, he almost won his second match twice.
“In his wrestle-back, he got a wrestler that had beaten him once before, and beaten him badly,” Lindsay said. “He ended up doing very well and pinned him twice, but it was out of bounds. He did well, but he came up short.”
Like GMC Prep, the Braves return a strong lineup next year, boding well for the future of an already strong program.
“We’re excited about next year because we’re returning our entire starting lineup,” Lindsay said. “It’s a very positive outlook next year for the wrestling team. We think through a lot of hard work, that we can improve quite a bit. We’ll be working toward getting a team that might go to dual state.”