Valdosta Daily Times

January 18, 2013

Young Wildcat wrestlers working to improve

Christian Malone
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — After spending a number of years as one of their region’s top wrestling programs, the Valdosta Wildcats are having a rebuilding season this year.

But although the Wildcats have been somewhat down this year, their head coach hopes that this year’s team is laying the foundation for more strong wrestling teams in the future.

“We’ve taken some licks. But hopefully (our wrestlers) are learning and (we’re) doing a good job of teaching morals,” Valdosta head coach Benjy Scarbor said. “Hopefully we can raise kids who make good decisions and know what hard work’s about and (they can) improve.”

For over a decade, Valdosta has had an outstanding wrestling team. Since 2004, Wildcat wrestlers have combined for eight individual state championships and a number of region championships, and Valdosta has won several region team championships. Valdosta finished fourth at the state dual tournament in 2010 and third at the state dual and traditional tournaments in 2011. Between 2003 (when the GHSA began holding region and state dual tournaments) and 2011, the Wildcats finished in the top two in the region and qualified for the state dual tournament every year.

But the championship-winning wrestlers who led Valdosta to most of those titles have graduated. This year’s team is filled with young, inexperienced wrestlers.

“We’ve got a pretty young team, as far as experience level goes,” Scarbor said. “It’s a little different coaching strategy than what you’ve had (the last few years). There’s a lot of teaching going on, a lot of learning, a lot of consoling and mind games and fixing up young wrestlers.”

Senior Clarence Williams, who has won two region titles, is the only wrestler on this year’s squad who has won an individual region title. Williams has wrestled at 152 pounds most of the season, but might move down to 145 pounds for the upcoming individual tournaments. Williams and fellow senior Jarvese Gilliard (who wrestles at 160 pounds) are the team’s captains and most experienced wrestlers.

In several weight classes, Scarbor has used either freshmen, sophomores or upperclassmen who are first-year wrestlers.

Nevertheless, the Wildcats finished second at both the Cook Hornet Classic in Adel and the Fitzgerald tournament. Williams and Gilliard have both won individual tournament titles this season.

Earlier this month, Valdosta finished fifth at the Region 1-6A dual tournament. The region has gotten stronger this year with the addition of 2012 Class 5A state dual champion Camden County, which won the region title this year and finished second at the state meet, as well as Brunswick, which placed fourth at the region dual meet.

This weekend, the Wildcats will compete in a 13-team tournament in Tifton. The Region 1-6A traditional tournament will be held on Feb. 2 at Camden County. The following week, the 6A sectional tournament will take place at Chattahoochee High School in metro Atlanta. The state tournament is Feb. 14-16 at the Macon Coliseum.