Randy Hill has been a coach and teacher at Lakeside High School since the school opened its doors in 1988.
He started his career as the head soccer coach, and he now serves as assistant football coach, where he has developed a reputation as an intense competitor and well-liked leader.
Hill has been a wrestling enthusiast since his childhood days in Cincinnati; with that background, he understandably was thrilled when Lakeside began a wrestling program in 1994.
Since the team's inception, Hill has molded the Panthers into the top local wrestling program.
In 2000, Lakeside captured a region title and had six wrestlers finish in sixth place or higher in the state.
The 2001-02 campaign has been even better - the Panthers claimed Region 3-AAAA crowns in the team duals and in individual competition.
Hill's top grapplers this season were senior Blaine Carter (fourth in the state in the 215-pound weight class), junior Justin Otis (third in 152-pound class), and senior Chris Fontimayor (top eight in 112-pound class). Fomtimayor also placed in the top six at state as a sophomore and junior.
The Panthers competed in the state dual meet this weekend in Ringgold, Ga., and despite stiff competition from powerful programs such as West Hall and defending state champion Ringgold, Hill was looking forward to seeing his athletes match their skills with the state's best.
"We know it won't be easy at the state duals, but we have a tough group of kids," Hill said last week. "Wrestling is a tough sport to get started, but I'm proud of how hard our kids have worked to build a winning tradition."
Part of Lakeside's success can be credited to off-season workouts with the West Augusta Wrestling Club, which is also guided by Hill.
The Panthers also have benefited from the Georgia High School Association splitting regions as a result of reclassification. That meant the Panthers did not have to face some Class AAAAA schools, which have a much larger athlete pool.
Local wrestling fans have taken notice of Lakeside's performance on the mat. Hill says he was encouraged to see crowd turnouts at matches this season, particularly when the Panthers took on county rival Greenbrier.
Lakeside will lose five seniors from this year's squad, but Hill's cupboard isn't going to be bare.
Juniors Justin Otis and Tanner Richards, sophomore J.P. Dixon and freshman Richard Fontimayor are ready to keep the winning tradition alive.
While wrestling might not garner as much publicity as football, basketball or baseball, the sport is starting to earn some accolades, thanks to coaches such as Randy Hill.
For more insight on the Lakeside coach, tune in to Comcast Channell 4 on Monday night, as Hill will appear on Connect Live. The program will air at 7:30 p.m.
Ashley Brown's radio program can be heard from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on News-Talk Sports 1630 AM. His e-mail address is AB@WRDWAM.com.
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