When Louie Shearer and his family moved to Columbia County almost five years ago, the elementary school pupil had plenty of sports options.
Little League baseball, recreation basketball and football were offered at the time. None was exactly what Shearer was looking for.
He's a wrestler.
"(When we moved here) I thought they would have at least a middle school program," he said. "It surprised me that they didn't."
The Shearer family came to the area from Virginia - a state that has a strong high school wrestling program.
In the Southeast, wrestling is a winter sport and often takes a backseat to basketball and football. Lakeside High School has long had the only established wrestling program in the Augusta area. Smaller programs are offered at Greenbrier, Evans and Cross Creek high schools, but the Panthers have held a firm grip on any wrestling success coming from Columbia County.
In fact, wrestling's highest honor, All-American status, has been achieved by only two Columbia County athletes. Both were Lakeside wrestlers.
On June 28, Shearer became the third All-American from the county with a seventh-place finish at the 10th annual National High School Coaches Association National Open Wrestling Championships in Virginia Beach, Va.
Shearer, a rising sophomore at Greenbrier, competed in the middle school division (grades 7-9) and helped Team Georgia place fourth overall.
"It was real tough competition," Shearer said. "Anytime you go up north you know it's going to be hard. The competition is completely different than wrestling down here."
After a first-round bye, Shearer dropped his second-round match to the eventual tournament champion. Competing in the loser's bracket, Shearer won his next three matches before suffering a double overtime loss in the medal round.
"I really set my goals higher than I achieved," Shearer said. "I was expecting to do a lot better, but I didn't prepare myself well enough."
Despite the loss, Shearer still took home a trophy, a certificate and All-American status. With the high school wrestling season still several months away, Shearer said he hopes he can defend his All-American status and help overthrow Lakeside's wrestling throne in the county.
"I think as a team we're going to win region," Shearer said. "I think that we have enough kids coming up to take it this year. Things are getting a lot better."
Though Greenbrier will return a large portion of last season's state tournament squad, Lakeside won't roll over for their cross-county rivals.
In fact, the Panthers were well-represented at the NHSCA National Open Wrestling Championships. Joe Brejda, a rising senior at Lakeside, also competed in the event.
Shearer's father, Lou Shearer, said the recent wrestling success and competition between Greenbrier and Lakeside have finally given the sport some attention.
"I think they'll have their hands full next year," Lou Shearer said. "Especially with the younger boys, the sport is starting to grow down here."
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