Short-handed Bulldogs open the wrestling season with a Swamp Duals Championship

Toombs County Bulldogs are champs of the Swamp Duals

Fifteen Toombs County Bulldog wrestlers traveled down to Waycross and despite having to forfeit three weight classes (160 pounds, 170 and 195) they rolled through their pool with a 4-0 record and then defeated Ware County 41-40 to win the Swamp Duals.

In pool action Toombs County outscored Effingham County 72-12, knocked off defending 6A state champion Richmond Hill 45-35, handled Tift County 64-24 and they finished with a 53-24 win over Brantley County. In all of their matches the Bulldogs were giving up 18 points before they even started because they were missing their football players who will fill those weight classes soon.

“When you are giving up weights you have got to have guys to pin to have an opportunity to win,” head coach Bill Benton said. “We pinned and pinned well. We bumped guys around. Jonathan Morales wrestled up twice and did really well. I think everybody wrestled really good. You can’t lose matches you are suppose to win when you are giving up three weight classes. We didn’t have any major upsets. I thought it was a great way to start the season.”

Without a full team the Bulldogs relied on their conditioning to get through the challenging day, “They are not scared to get in the wrestling room and one thing we know we can control is losing a match by being out of shape. We weren’t tired, they put in the time,” Benton said.

In the championship match, against Ware, the Bulldogs were down by 12 points with two matches to go. Martin Santana and Cruz Arredondo each scored six points with a pin. That tied the score at 40-all and the match was decided by criteria. The Bulldogs had more (five) pins than the Gators.

Toombs County winners versus Ware County

106  John Davis won by forfeit.
120  Martin Santana won by pin.
126  Cruz Arredondo won by pin.
138  Ricardo Santana won by pin.
182  Johnathan Morales won by pin.
220  Isaiah Wright won by major decision.
285  Rolando Tinoco won by pin.

“We knew going into the Ware match that they were only giving up one weight class and it was going to be tight. We had one match in which we were up 7-2 and got caught and pinned and all of sudden it looked pretty bad. One of the guys who stood out was Isaiah Wright. He got a major (decision) late in his match. We let the guy up and he took him down again to get the major which gave us four points (instead of three for a win). You look up at the end of the day and you are tied and you look back at that match,” Benton said.

“Martin Santana and Cruz Arredondo had all the weight on them. If they don’t pin out we don’t win. Neither one of them panicked. A lot of times you get yourself in bad shape trying to pin. They stayed the course and got the pins. You look at the guys who pinned at the end and you say they won the match. However, I look back and Ricardo had a pin, Morales had a pin and Rolando had a pin in that one. It was important to be able to get them in the end.”

This Saturday the Bulldogs will be wrestling at Effingham County in the same kind of 10-team tournament. “We are on the same side as Richmond Hill again. They are going to be loaded. They have three guys who were appealing weight classes and weren’t there last week. So, I look for that one to be a war. If we can get through our pool again, we will probably get Ware County from the other side again. The other teams will be different. We have Islands and Windsor Forest and some other teams we didn’t see last week. We will run up on Richmond Hill in round two or three. That is great competition for our guys,” Benton added.

The Bulldogs will once again wrestle without the football players at Effingham County. “They were in a physical battle last Friday night (versus Dublin in the GHSA State Tournament). I gave them the entire week off because it is a long season. We will probably fill one of those three missing weight classes this week. We will get those guys in all of next week and they will be back and ready to roll the week after.”

BPC’s Nate Pristavec with his NAIA All-American plaque

Coach Benton, who is also Toombs County’s athletic director, took over as head coach when Ryan Durham left the program to take a job at Turner County. Benton is being assisted by two wrestlers with Brewton-Parker connections. Nate Pristavec was a NAIA All-American. He also wrestled at power house Camden County in high school.

Brooks Climmons wrestles as a Oklahoma Sooner against an Iowa State Cyclone
Brooks Climmons wrestles for Old Dominion
Brooks Climmons as a Brewton-Parker Baron

Brooks Climmons is also helping out this season. Brooks was a two-time state champion at Pope High School and he spent a year at the Olympic Training Center after graduating from high school in 2013. Climmons wrestled at both Oklahoma and Old Dominion before transferring to Brewton-Parker where he is in his senior season.

“They have a great relationship with our kids. Guys that are close to their age, they just connect with them,” Benton said about the Barron wrestlers. The Bulldogs traveled over to BPC, on Thursday, to watch Brooks wrestle against two Kentucky schools.

Another new wrestling coach this season is Sam Sapp. He was the head wrestling coach at Montgomery County prior to joining the Toombs County athletic department as the head softball coach and assistant wrestling coach. He also heads up the kids program.