The Cov­ing­ton News 2007-08 All-County Wrestling Team King of the mat

Joel Stafford pins wrestler of year award

The Covington News - - Sports - By Eric L. McDon­ald

For East­side High wrestler Joel Stafford, there is no such thing as an off­sea­son.

Based on his hard work and ded­i­ca­tion, Stafford, a ju­nior, has be­come a dom­i­nat­ing force on the mat. He is re­garded as one of the best wrestlers in the state, if not the na­tion.

Per­haps that is why he has been se­lected as wrestler of the year to head­line the in­au­gu­ral 2007-2008 All-County Wrestling Team.

The team in­cludes 16 wrestlers in all from each of the three county high schools.

Though hum­bled as be­ing the first to re­ceive the honor, Stafford is more ex­cited for his team win­ning the AAAA state tra­di­tional cham­pi­onship.

“It feels great,” said Joel, “It’s been a great year.”

For first-year East­side head coach Bran­don Blake­man, he knew he had been blessed with a qual­ity wrestler from day one.

“(Joel) set that tone of want­ing to get bet­ter,” said Blake­man. “The men­tal at­ti­tude that Joel has brought to the pro­gram is the at­ti­tude that we wanted ev­ery­one to have, and so far it’s work­ing.”

Stafford was im­pres­sive in his fresh­man cam­paign when he matched up against even­tual state cham­pion De­quan Warner (South­west DeKalb) in the semi­fi­nals of the 2006 GHSA State Tra­di­tional To u r n a - ment. Stafford set­tled for third place af­ter de­feat­ing Je­mey Led­ford (Haber­sham Cen­tral).

The fol­low­ing year, Stafford won his first Area 8-AAAA ti­tle, then went on to cap­ture the state AAAA ti­tle af­ter de­feat­ing Tony Pullen (Clarke Cen­tral) in the 103-pound weight class.

Af­ter his in­tense off­sea­son reg­i­men and tack­ing on an ad­di­tional 16 pounds, Stafford

dom­i­nated on the mat in the 119-pound di­vi­sion, fin­ish­ing this sea­son with an over­all record of 51-5. He cap­tured his sec­ond Area 8-AAAA ti­tle, yet Stafford had to settle as AAAA state run­ner-up af­ter los­ing his ti­tle to Noel Hall (Dac­ula) by points in the state fi­nals.

Stafford was run­ner-up at the 2007 South Metro In­vi­ta­tional af­ter fac­ing good friend and two-times de­fend­ing AAA State Cham­pion Evan War­ring­ton (Henry County) in an epic matchup. In fact, some con­sid­ered it the best match of the en­tire tour­na­ment.

Stafford will par­tic­i­pate with Team Ge­or­gia at the Ju­nior

oel set that tone of want­ing to get bet­ter. The men­tal at­ti­tude that (he) has brought to the pro­gram is the at­ti­tude that we wanted ev­ery­one to have, and so far it’s work­ing.”

Na­tional Wrestling Tour­na­ment dur­ing the off­sea­son. Last Oc­to­ber, he par­tic­i­pated in the Su­per 32 Chal­lenge in Greens­boro, S.C. where 1,250 wrestlers from 34 dif­fer­ent states com­peted against each other.

Among the elite who wres­tled in Stafford’s weight class was sixth-ranked Ke­gan Hand-

Bran­don Blake­man Wrestling Head Coach, East­side High School

lovic (Eas­ton, Pa.) and ju­niorAll Amer­i­can Steve Mitch­eff (Elyria, Ohio).

“Joel is a tremen­dously hard worker and one of the first ones (at East­side) who wres­tle year-round,” said Blake­man.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Face plant: East­side’s Joel Stafford, top, pins his man in ear­lier ac­tion last year. Stafford has been se­lected as Wrestler of the Year to head­line The Cov­ing­ton News 2007-08 All-County Wrestling Team.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.