There are certain sports that complement each other perfectly from a cross training perspective.
If Akila Parks is any indication, football and wrestling should be near the top of that list.
“Before wrestling, football wasn’t much of a thing to me,” the Grovetown High School senior said. “But wrestling is more aggressive than football, so coming out here wrestling and then going out there next season and playing football, I was more aggressive, stronger, faster, in better shape and more conditioned.”
Warriors head football coach Rodney Holder credits wrestling with helping to mold Parks into the “outstanding player” he’s become.
Parks recently completed a high school football career in which he started for three years at left tackle and bolstered the defensive line in goal-line situations.
Parks has already garnered interest from college football coaches, and figures to get the same from some wrestling programs at the next level.
First, he’ll concentrate on some unfinished business on the mat.
As a junior, Parks placed fifth in the heavyweight division at the Georgia High School Association State Traditional Wrestling Championships, held at the Gwinnett Center near Atlanta.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound athlete became the first Grovetown wrestler to medal at state. It marked the next step in his progression in the sport.
“Sophomore year, I didn’t really know anything,” said Parks, who took a 24-3 record into Sectionals last season. “Winning matches my sophomore year built confidence into my junior year.
“Placing last year at state, I have all the confidence in the world now.”
Kris Norris, an assistant wrestling coach the past few years, took over the program from Mike Meyer this season.
Having a wrestler as accomplished as Parks has helped the transition, he said.
“When he is focused, his drive is probably as high as anybody you’d ever find,” Norris said.
“I think what he’s looking for is to carry some sport, whether it be wrestling or football, on to college,” he added. “… Where he takes it from here is up to him.”
As the season progresses, Parks gets more focused on his goal of winning a state championship. Being successful has made things more difficult, though. Because his name is out there, fellow competitors have caught on to Parks’ style.
“Takedowns, shots,” he said of what he relied on for success last season. “I try not to do them this season because everybody knows I like to shoot.”
Technique is particularly important for heavyweight wrestlers, who weigh from about 220 to about 285 pounds, so competitors have to be ready for a variety of styles.
“It’s all about technique,” Parks said.