The crowd chanted “Bond, Bond!” at West Laurens High School in Dublin recently.
Not that they were necessarily against Alberto Perez of Gilmer County, but Class AAAA wrestling has seen Gilmer win five titles in the past seven years. And many on hand were ready for something different.
So all eyes were on Madison County’s Cody Bond, just a freshman, but a state wrestling finalist in the 106 lb. class. Bond fell behind early in the match, but charged back, igniting the crowd.
“The whole gym got behind him (Bond),” said Madison County head coach Ritchie Houston. “He pushed the pace but just didn’t have the time he needed. If he had 10 more seconds, I think the outcome would have been different.”
Bond fell by a 6-5 decision, concluding his freshman year with an eye-catching 48-2 record.
“I may be biased, but I think it was the most exciting match of all the finals,” said Houston, who lost his own state finals match in his senior year of high school.
Bond said it was tough to fall short of the state title by just one point.
“I was disappointed, because I came so close and I really wanted to win it, but I’m happy with the season overall,” said Bond.
Houston said Bond has the championship bug now.
“It’s kind of like a drug,” said Houston. “He’s going to feel let down if he doesn’t get to this point every year. And he was really disappointed. But it was a really great accomplishment to be in that spotlight. Some people are overwhelmed by that, but he wasn’t. He was a trooper and he went out and battled.”
Bond said he has three more years to fight for titles.
“I’m going to try to be a three-time champion,” he said, adding that he’s hit the weights this week, preparing for next year.
The freshman nearly didn’t make it to the finals. He fought back from a 4-0 deficit in the semifinal matchup and defeated a wrestler from Lithonia in the final 30 seconds. “He was big and strong,” said Bond.
That comeback win stands out as a high point in the season in Bond’s mind. He also recalled a 9-4 win the East Metro finals against a tough opponent who cut his weight from 113 lbs. to wrestle in the 106-lb class as a standout memory.
Houston said Bond was among the first to participate in the Madison County’s youth wrestling program. The MCHS standout is just a freshman, but he already has several years of wrestling experience. Houston sees bright days ahead for Raider wrestling as more grapplers with youth wrestling experience reach high school age.
Bond said he started wrestling in second or third grade and that he has had good coaches over the years. He said Houston has helped him a lot this year.
“He’s really helped me fix my technique and getting out of the bottom,” said Bond, noting that the coach has helped him learn how to score points from that position.
Of course, Bond’s 2013-14 season isn’t completely over. He’ll travel in late March to Virginia Beach, Virginia to participate in the freshman national championships.
While Bond was the focus of a lot of attention this past weekend, he wasn’t the only Raider wrestler in Dublin. Both Beau Gentry and Eric Smith also turned in strong showings, propelling the Raiders to a 21st place finish out of 50 schools.
Smith went 2-2 in the tournament and defeated the Region 8-AAAA champion in the 152 lb. weight class to earn a seventh-place finish at 152. Meanwhile, Gentry, who weighed in at just 156 lbs., battled in the 170 lb. class, going 1-2 on the weekend.
Smith finished the year with a 38-18 record, while Gentry went 17-13.
Houston said he was pleased with how this year’s squad battled. He noted that the team finished ahead of Chestatee at state, even though Chestatee downed Madison County in region action. He said there were a number of instances in which Raider wrestlers improved on earlier performances as the season progressed.
“It’s not where you start, but where you finish,” said the coach. “We can hang our heads a little higher.”