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Special day at Troup High

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It was the culmination of a goal years in the making.

When Drew Garner became involved with youth wrestling, he began toying with the idea of hosting a tournament at his home school, Troup High.

Last weekend, that goal became a reality when Troup hosted a youth tournament, the State Prep Showdown, with hundreds of wrestlers representing more than 20 teams competing.

Among the competitors were more than 30 wrestlers in the Troup Tigers youth organization, which was started by Garner and others five years ago.

“It was a dream come true,” said Garner, who is the head wrestling coach at Troup High. “It was one of those things that when you first start going to them, and you’re trying to learn how they work, and then you start going to more and more of them and you see which schools are doing the best job and how they’re doing it.”

With so many schools unable to host tournaments because of COVID-19 restrictions, Garner stepped in and offered to host a tournament at Troup, and the event was held in the new gymnasium that opened last year.

“COVID’s a big issue for wrestling this year, but it was a blessing in disguise for us,” Garner said. “A lot of those Atlanta schools that were putting on these tournaments were unable to do it, and that opened the door for schools like us. It gave us the opportunity, and that’s all we needed was an opportunity. We put the time and planning into it, and we tried to make it as special as we could for these kids, and hopefully it’ll create bigger and better opportunities for our program in the years to come.”

Garner, along with Brandon Smith, helped get the youth program going, and from its humble beginnings it has developed into one of the most successful programs in the state.

“We started out with two kids, and it’s turned into what it is today,” Garner said.

Two of the stars of the program are Garner’s daughters, Blakely Garner and Brylie Garner, who have made quite a name for themselves.

Blakely Garner, in fact, is the country’s top-ranked 45-pound wrestler in the country, and Brylie Garner is ranked second at 50 pounds.

Meanwhile Garner’s son, Gage, is also finding success in the sport, and he earned a first-place finish last weekend.

As for his daughters, Garner said “I’m proud of them, yes, but a lot of their success is because they’ve only taken two days off in four years. That’s something we preach at home is dedication.”

That same work ethic has allowed a number of other members of the program to reach major heights, and a number of Troup wrestlers won first-place medals last weekend.

Garner’s hope is that the youth wrestlers of today will one day thrive as high-school wrestlers.

“I see that our retention rate at the high school is not very high,” Garner said. “So, just kind of taking the step back and analyzing the situation, we discovered that the faster we can get them involved at an earlier age, the more likely they’ll stay with it.”

TROUP TIGERS 

MEDALISTS

(From State Prep Showdown at Troup High)

First

Arissa Cruz (54 pounds)

Blakely Garner (45 pounds)

Gage Garner (49 pounds)

Gage Garner (52 pounds)

Braylon Smith (70 pounds)

Hanna Posey (52 pounds)

Javen Russo (61 pounds)

Brylie Garner (48 pounds)

Jayden Posey (58 pounds)

Walker Woodard (91 pounds)

Second

Arissa Cruiz (57 pounds)

Blakely Garner (48 pounds)

Brantley Bowen (68 pounds)

Blakely Garner (48 pounds)

Brantley Bowen (68 pounds)

Levi Allison (73 pounds)

Nolan Davidson (80 pounds)

Third

Cross King (46 pounds)

Nash Davidson (49 pounds)

Hank Muhr (110 pounds)

Levi Allison (68 pounds)

Jose Zamorano (80 pounds)

Levi Allison (70 pounds)

Nolan Davidson (84 pounds)

Fourth

Braylon Smith (67 pounds)

Emerson Hill (76 pounds)