The Covington News 2007-08 All-County Wrestling Team King of the mat
Joel Stafford pins wrestler of year award
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.
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.