Hardaway wrestling coach Hunter Jackson is living a dream. He’s hoping the dream continues through this weekend’s state dual tournament that starts today.
Jackson leads the undefeated Hawks into the Class AAAA meet at Macon in his first year as coach.
“Tommy Sanders started this program from nothing five or six years ago,” Jackson said.
“It’s gotten progressively better the last four years. Tommy did a great job keeping the ship in the right direction. He and I coached football together and when the wrestling job came open I jumped on it.” (Sanders is now the wrestling coach at Smiths Station.)
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There will be 16 teams competing in the modified double-elimination tournament. One defeat places a team in the losers bracket with the chance to finish third at best. Dalton is the top seed in AAAA and the Hawks sixth.
Three other local schools will also compete for a team title: Columbus in AAA and Spencer and Jordan in AA.
Hardaway beat Jones County to win Region 1-AAAA after finishing as runner-up last season.
Wrestlers compete in their weight classes which range from 103 to 285 pounds. The teams accumulate points in each classification. At the close of competition, points are tallied and a champion crowned.
Jackson and the Hawks like the format because it aligns with their team-first concept. The squad can lose a match or two and still win the title.
“We have a lot of very good individual wrestlers, but our strength is the team factor,” Jackson said.
Though they came through the regular season unscathed, the Hawks have experienced a few close calls, beating Northside by 14 points and Jones County by 19.
Though there are few losses in their high school scrapbooks, seniors Jacob Trammell and Jarquise Buford have vivid memories of the matches that got away.
Trammell started wrestling as a young child in Kansas under the watchful eye of his dad. His father was a USA wrestling coach and older brother also a wrestler. Trammell suffered his first loss of the season to Jones County.
“I’ve gone over it a couple hundred times,” Trammell said of the defeat. “I’ll dream about it and at 3 o’clock in the morning ask myself what I could have done better. He was a good wrestler and he wrestled his match.”
The loss didn’t rattle the team.
When Jacob had his first loss of the season, the others responded.
“This was their leader and they rose to the challenge. He’s like another wrestling coach out there. As he goes, we go,” Jackson said.
Unlike Trammell, Buford doesn’t have deep wrestling roots. An excellent athlete, he decided to give the sport a try in his sophomore year. A football injury forced Buford to miss nearly all of last wrestling season. He returned in time to post a quick victory.
“It was my first match in over a year,” Buford said. “It was so hard to watch all that year. I was so ready and won so quickly. I won in 18 seconds.”
Buford also has a painful memory. He lost to Spencer’s Brian Davis, who was state runner-up in the indivdiaul tournament last year. Davis was the only wrestler to defeat Buford this season.
“I lost because he was bigger. I couldn’t handle his weight. He was so heavy. That day he wrestled at 218 and I was 195,” Buford said.
Trammell and Buford share a simple game plan for the upcoming state tournament. “Everybody needs to stay together,” Buford said.
“I’m excited about it, but it’s sad that it’s my last year,” Trammell said. “All I want is for our team to be a success.”