That’s the question the first-year Cedartown MatDawgs youth wrestling program is asking after finding great success in their first year of club wrestling.
According to Head Coach James Bowman and Assistant Coach Shane Lee, the team has come together after a lot of hard work and perseverance from the wrestlers, coaches, parents and community.
The duo said wrestlers have came with a good attitude and are ready to learn at practice every day and it has shown on the mats at tournaments as they are finding great success.
“First of all I would like to say that I am very proud that I was given the opportunity to be associated with the Cedartown MatDawgs program,” Bowman said. “I would like to thank the parents for letting their kids participate in the program and taking time out of their day to bring their kids to practice. I would also like to tip my hat to Coach Lee for his hard work and dedication.
“I would like to thank our Superintendent, Mr. Williams, the Board of Education, Cedartown High Principal Hal David, the Cedartown wrestling booster club, our sponsors, those who purchased a boston butt during our fundraiser and (Bowman and Lee’s) wives.”
Bowman was also thankful to all the wrestlers on the team this season.
“I am very proud of our new program this year, I’m proud of each and every wrestler,” he said. “We have 20 wrestlers on the roster and 17 of the 20 are stepping on the mat for the first time this season. The other three wrestlers are in their second year of wrestling.”
Despite their lack of experience, the Cedartown youngsters have had numerous medal winners at each tournament this year, ranging from gold to bronze.
“We have had several highlights during the year,” Bowman said. “We have one wrestler that will be trying to complete the Tour of Georgia tournaments (six tournaments spread out across the state). He has medaled in five of the six tournaments so far and will be traveling to Valdosta on Feb. 13 to compete in the last tournament of the tour.
“We have had several wrestlers medal in many tournaments this year with the bulk of the tournaments yet to come. We have had several program matches with the high school and middle school. We have wrestled Rome (twice), Unity Christian and Rockmart and we only lost to Rockmart by a slim margin. That’s a pretty successful first season so far in my book.”
On Jan. 22, the MatDawgs were apart of the Polk County Championship along with Cedartown High School and middle school against the Rockmart programs.
The Cedartown youth competed against Rockmart, Unity Christian and Rome. The MatDawgs totaled 43 wins that day, with 30 coming via pinfall.
“We are very excited about our program and the direction we are heading in such a short time,” Bowman said. “When you are able to compete against experienced clubs like Rockmart and have that kind of success, it only makes you want to work harder to see how far you can go.”
According to the coaches, the program has really focused on the basics this year.
“We did not want to overwhelm the kids with trying to learn tons of moves their first year,” Bowman said. “We taught them four to five different moves from each position. The wrestlers learn the moves and then are able to recognize during the match when the moves are available to be done.
“Along with learning the moves, the wrestlers have to be in very good condition. We condition daily because in one tournament, a wrestler may have to wrestle seven to eight times. With that said, we are now in the meat of our season with tournaments every weekend for the remainder of the season, which ends in March.”
According to the coaches, their main goal now is to get the wrestlers the most mat time possible in preparation for state qualifications that take place in late February, where a wrestler has to finish in the top four of their weight division to advance to state in March.
However, Bowman also realizes what the youth program can do for the entire wrestling program in Cedartown.
“It is our goal as a youth program to be a feeder program for the middle school and high school programs,” Bowman continued. “With the continued support of those coaches, we should have no problem accomplishing that goal.”
Bowman also pointed out what he told each wrestler before the season got under way.
“As I told each wrestler at the beginning of the season, wrestling will be the hardest sport you will ever participate in, however, it is also the most rewarding,” Bowman said. “It is the only sport that is a team sport and an individual sport. You are only as good as you want to be.
“Work hard, give it your all and you will succeed. So far, the Cedartown MatDawgs have met every challenge head on and with continued hard work and dedication, we will be a team of champions.”
Members of the MatDawgs youth program are Gage Guice, Will McLendon, Connor Bullard, Gage Lameka, Taylor Carr, Sam Payne, Robert Peek, Dylan Davis, Curtis Lee, Nolan Holland, Landon Foor, Will Pilgrim, Andrew Cromer, Dalton Bowman, Drew Kirkpatrick, Grant Bullard, Alan Cordero, Dalton Marsh, John Watkins, Andrew Peek and Garrett Ashmore.