Greater Valley Area’s lone wrestling program highlight advantages of the sport

Published 10:35 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2018

BEULAH — There are many sports that the student-athletes throughout the Greater Valley Area can participate in, but only Beulah High School offers wrestling.

The Bobcats are in their fourth season of competition this year, and have already wrestled in seven matches this season. 

On Tuesday, Beulah hosted its final match of the calendar year against Russell County, Catholic and Tallassee.

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“We’re a 3A team,” Beulah head wrestling coach Stan Pepper said. “We’re the furthest east 3A team, that I know of, that wrestles. Everyone else is a classification or two higher than us.”

The Beulah Recreation Division also includes 53 athletes. Pepper said five of the wrestlers are from the city of Valley, and some of the participants even come from as far as Troup County.

“I’m hoping that this will spark more interest because this sport teaches you self-discipline, it gives you the ability to control your body more, better agility and self-pride,” Pepper said. “Yes, it’s a team sport, but it’s also an individual sport. It’s a very physically demanding sport. There are a lot of benefits that come out of this sport.”

One of the benefits of having a wrestling team that Beulah got to see this year came on the football field, Pepper said.

“Our three best defensive linemen are all on the wrestling team,” he said. “It’s really starting to pay dividends on the football field, as well as the wrestling program.”

One of the defensive linemen is Hunter Bryant, who is the lone senior on this season’s wrestling team. 

The young Bobcats are led by sophomore Blain Hines, who became the first state qualifier in the program’s history last year. Sophomores Quinton Hale, Jacob Sellers and Rasheek Morris are other key athletes on the roster.

Hines tried out wrestling because it was a different option from the norm of what’s available locally, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“I always watched WWE, and I knew that it wasn’t going to be the same, but why not try it?” Hines said. “I absolutely love it. It is a wonderful sport, it helps in other sports like football and baseball, it’s just a good sport.”

While both Pepper and Hines argue that wrestling is the toughest sport mentally for an athlete to compete in, the practices at Beulah are high-spirited. 

The athletes are energized, and jump at the opportunity to wrestle — even on practice between matches. 

Coaches and players put the mats away at the end of every session at the bottom level of the gym building at Beulah.

“My coaches are amazing,” Hines said. “We have the best coaches there are. Coach Pepper is good, Coach [Matt] Johnson, he’s good with conditioning, Coach [Brandon] Carden. They’ve been here since day one, and I wouldn’t trade them for anybody else.”

The sport isn’t limited to boys, and the matchups are picked by gender, not weight. 

Beulah sophomore Emily Dunson won the first individual match in program history four years ago as a seventh grader.

“I’ve seen some very good female wrestlers,” Pepper said. “A girl from Smiths Station is very aggressive, very talented in the sport. If you’re aggressive, and you want to participate in this sport, this sport will allow you to participate no matter what your gender is.”

Beulah heads on the road Thursday Pike Road for its final match before winter break. 

Leading a program still in its infancy stage, Pepper said that he’s more focused on the athletes’ improvements as opposed to the team’s wins, but the Bobcats have won more matches than any other season in the program’s brief history. 

The team is making progress as far as funding goes, as well, with mats that display the Beulah logo in the center on the way.

“Come out and support. It’s not WWF stuff, but everybody that I talk to when they come out to a match tells me that this is really exciting,” Pepper said. “Since it is so rare around here, people don’t know, but when you come to a match, and you get involved in a match, it’s one of the most entertaining events that we have.”