Rich Davis remembers three years ago brainstorming a way to get more Columbia County students involved in wrestling.
The Evans High coach met with then-Greenbrier High coach Brett Cooper. The pair decided to hold a middle school tournament.
"We wanted wrestling to grow in the county," Davis said. "So we said we might want to just host a middle school tournament so these kids would keep coming back and stay interested."
The idea stuck.
The third installment of the tournament was held at Evans High School on Friday evening. It was organized into seven weight-class pools.
Winners were determined based on victories in the round-robin format. Theoretically, seven winners would be named after several rounds of wrestling.
But something occurred on Friday for the first time in the tournament's brief history. In the 135- to 145-pound weight class, Riverside's Brett Lillis, Evans' Evan Zange and Greenbrier's Cal Newsome all tied for first place.
Meanwhile, the other six pools all had individual champions declared.
Because both schools feed to Greenbrier High School, Riverside's and Greenbrier's middle school teams practice and train together under Wolfpack coach Chris McDaniel.
Thus, a pair of wrestlers from different schools who train together, but have much different experience levels, both earned a middle school title.
Jeff Bourbo, an eighth-grader at Riverside Middle, has been wrestling for three years. McDaniel said he typically doesn't allow sixth-graders to compete, but Bourbo had been to wrestling camp before and has an older brother, Neil, who wrestles at Greenbrier High.
In the 145- to 155-pound weight class, Bourbo earned the win by notching three victories. One of his wins came on a pin with just 10 seconds left in the third and final period.
"You know you have to do something fast, especially if the score if close," he said of being near the end of a bout. "Once they're on their back, you pretty much have them pinned."
While Bourbo came into the season with plenty of experience, Greenbrier Middle eighth-grader R.J. Mitchell came in with none.
After little more than a month in the sport, Mitchell got a chance to compete earlier this month at the area's junior varsity tournament, alongside Bourbo and two other future Greenbrier High wrestlers.
Both Bourbo and Mitchell finished third in their respective weight classes among the JV contingent.
"The JV tournament was definitely a lot tougher. The experience in that tournament helped me tonight," Mitchell said Friday. "I came out with a good attitude, feeling good about tonight."
After going against high school athletes, Mitchell had no trouble against his middle-school counterparts, winning the 155- to 165-pound weight class. He won all three by pin, two in the first period and another in the second.
Other winners included:
David Cole, Evans, in the 75- to 95-pound weight class
Daniel Goolsby, Greenbrier, in the 105-pound weight class
Stephen Smith, Riverside, in the 115- to 125-pound weight class
Brandon Moon, Evans, in the 125- to 134-pound weight class
For Moon, the night showed how much he's learned in only a matter of weeks. Like Mitchell, this is his first competitive season.
"I felt good because I was pumped up," he said. "I've learned to always stay in balance."
Moon said that any win is good, but pins are particularly satisfying. He won one match by decision and secured two pins.
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