The wrestling room in the Rockmart Recreation Gym, which is located in the old Rockmart High School, was the home base for seven of the Yellow Jackets’ nine state championship teams.
Now, it is the base of operations for the Rockmart Takedown Club, a youth wrestling program that consists of kids from 4 to 14-years-old and is providing the foundation for future success.
“If Rockmart is known for anything it’s wrestling,” Takedown Club president Eric Durocher said.
“When I was in high school in the late 80s and early 90s, we went to tournaments and all the other teams knew that they would be wrestling for second.
“We want to be a feeder program and help the high school get back to that.”
It was during that run that Durocher and Takedown Club head coach Jerome Bowman were a part of the Jackets’ rich wrestling history.
Rockmart High School won the traditional state championship from 1972-74 and 1984-85, 1987 and 1989. Thirteen years later, the Jackets picked up championships in 2002 and 2003, the last time the program took the team title.
“I wrestled for Rockmart when we were so dominate in the sport under coach (Marshelle) Thaxton,” Bowman said. “That’s where I would like to see Rockmart get back to.”
Individual Rockmart wrestlers have gone on to win state championships in their respective divisions in recent years but the Takedown Club sees a need to boost both the middle school and high school programs so that they can achieve another title.
“We want to make sure we get these kids to (RHS) coach (John) Garner knowing every move in the book and ready to face the toughest competition out there,” Durocher said.
That starts when kids are 4 or 5-years-old and begin learning the very basics of the sport. Rockmart has ten of the youngest group on their team.
“You can’t start when you get to middle school anymore,” Durocher said. “If these kids stick with it, they’ll be prepared to go into the middle school program and really take off.”
“Kids who participate in our program learn from an early age how to wrestle, and how to win, from some of the best youth coaches in the state of Georgia,” Durocher said.
“If you look at the recent success of the middle school program, many of those individuals were, and still are, members of the Rockmart Takedown Club.”
The group tries to attend a tournament each weekend during the season, which extends from November until March. Sometimes, the nearly 50 kids are split up among two tournaments in the same weekend.
“We want to go into these tournaments and make sure people know that we’re Rockmart and we’re serious,” Durocher said. “These kids come in and work hard and Saturday is when they shine.”
So far, that has been the case as the club boasted eight division champions and 10 runners up in two recent weekends.
Last season, Rockmart had 17 kids qualify for state, two of which placed in the top four of the division. This year, Durocher said that they hope to take 20-25 kids to state.
The selfless side of the Takedown Club is evident by the group of volunteer coaches that give their time to run practices and attend tournaments.
Bowman has been with the club for four years. Helping him are former outstanding Rockmart High School wrestlers like Dusty Waddell, Kyle Sherfesee, Ronnie Thompson and Ty Tenney.
Also on the coaching staff is David Duchemin, a former standout at McEachern High School who now lives in the community.
“I do believe that we have the best coaching staff in Northwest Georgia and the Metro Atlanta area,” Durocher said.
“We have an outstanding group of coaches and a great group of parents who support us.”
“Eric has done a tremendous amount of work and I would like to thank Eric for all the hard work he does behind the scene and I also would like to publicly thank the city of Rockmart for allowing us to use the room,” Bowman said.
“(City) Commissioner Steve Miller has been especially helpful to us and he has been there for us when we had some issues arise.”
Bowman knows that it is through the support of local parents and the rising interest in wrestling that will help the program grow.
“We’ve had a fresh start almost since I started with the club,” he said. “Local parents have helped rejuvenate the sport and the popularity of it is unbelievable.”
Just the right time to bring Rockmart back to the top.