COACH Doug Thurmond doesn’t even hesitate when asked the question.
Would winning a traditional state title — Jefferson’s 11th straight — this weekend mean just a little bit more given the trials and tribulations this wrestling season?
“You bet,” Thurmond said. “If they pull this off, it will be something majorly special.”
The Dragons attempt to defend their traditional title this Thursday through Saturday at the Gwinnett Arena.
Jefferson has had another stellar season on the wrestling mat, but it hasn’t been easy.
Various Dragons have been in and out of the lineup with sickness and injury. Then there were the state duals that were wiped out in January and tacked on to the end of the season, meaning that Jefferson will have to defend both its state titles in consecutive weekends. Then there’s been a rival emerging across the state – Sonoraville – with the Dragons in its crosshairs, aiming to usurp Jefferson’s power as Class AA’s best wrestling program.
And, of, course there’s been the mounting pressure for these wrestlers all year long to maintain a title streak that dates back to when they were in elementary school.
But the Dragons haven’t put together an unprecedented run of state titles by bending to tough circumstances or challengers to the title. This is a program that knows its history and is self-motivated, according to Thurmond.
“They really are,” he said. “They know what’s on the line. They don’t want to break the streak. So it’s going to be tough.”
The Dragons took a big step toward title defense no. 11 by qualifying 13 of 14 wrestlers at this past weekend’s state sectionals, including seven no. 1 seeds.
Thurmond said he was very pleased with his team’s showing, pointing specifically to performances like that of Caleb King.
King was a no. 4 seed but knocked off three no. 1 seeds over the weekend.
“He had a really good tournament,” Thurmond said.
That said, Sonoraville awaits this weekend after a hugely successful performance in its sectionals tournament.
“If I had to pinpoint a team that we’ve got to beat, it would be them,” Thurmond said of Sonoraville.
The Phoenix pushed all 14 members of their lineup through the sectionals, 12 of which are top four seeds in their weight classes.
“And they’ve got one more bullet than we do,” Thurmond said of Sonoraville advancing its entire lineup.
Not only is Jefferson’s run of traditional titles is at stake, but several individual wrestlers have individual excellence to defend.
Five Dragon wrestlers are trying to repeat as champions in their weight classes. In fact, Cason Thurmond (125-lb.), son of Doug Thurmond, is vying to be a four-time champion.
“It’s a big week,” Thurmond said of his son’s push for yet another title. “So we try not to talk about it that much. I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself.”
Speaking of pressure, Jefferson will have to deal with that again next weekend at the Class AA state duals in Toombs County. But the Dragons are taking it one title defense at a time, and the goal at hand now is trying to win one more traditional championship.
Trying season or not, the Dragons are out to defend what’s been theirs for a decade now.
“Chains are meant to be broken … But we’re not ready to give up the ghost that easy,” Thurmond said.