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Prep wrestling: Thurmonds look to make it eight straight for Jefferson

POSTED: February 4, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Jefferson High Wrestling Coach Doug Thurmond's team recently captured its seventh straight state title last weekend. Two team members include his sons Cam Thurmond, 17, left, and Cason Thurmond, 15, right.

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Cason Thurmond enjoys the added expectations his family name carries as a wrestler in the Jefferson High program.

Thurmond, only a freshman, knows people expect more from him as the son of one of the most established wrestling coaches in the state, Doug Thurmond.

He’s learned quickly in his first season wrestling varsity that there are no free passes for family members. And he’s also gotten used to his father treating him just like any other team member when practice begins.

"Being a Thurmond, people just expect you to win," the freshman grappler said.

But he’s got more to think about than just making his papa proud on the wrestling mat for the seven-time defending Class A state champions from Jefferson. He also has the incentive to do better than older brother Cam Thurmond, a junior, to try to establish family bragging rights. The oldest of the Thurmond boys was a Class A state runner-up at 112 pounds his freshman season and then the state champion in the same class as a sophomore.

But Cason Thurmond believes the lessons he’s learned from big brother can translate into early varsity success as Jefferson’s 103-pound wrestler — He’s already got a 34-1 record this season and is looking for a Class state championship.

"I want to be able to do as good, and maybe better, than my brother did as a freshman this season," he added.

What motivates the Thurmond brothers and their father now is preparing for the traditional state championships on Feb. 22-23 at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth. Jefferson is shooting for its eighth consecutive traditional state championship, which would break the previous state record of seven the Dragons share with Class AAAAA’s McEachern.

To prepare for that opportunity, the Dragons are going to test their skill against much larger programs including Class AAAAA’s Milton High Duals this week.

The Dragons will travel to the individual state championships after racking up their seventh straight dual state championship last Saturday in Macon. Jefferson breezed through the duals with a 71-0 win against Trion, a 58-18 win over Bowdon and a 51-19 win over Bremen in the state finals.

"The main thing for us is we want to carry on the school’s tradition," Cam Thurmond said. "It’s a big responsibility at our school because we’ve set the bar so high."

This win was much like any other for the Dragons with complete domination from the lightweights all the way up to the heavier wrestlers. Cason Thurmond, Daniel Barber (112), Cam Thurmond, Jed Gurley (125), Wayne Elliot (135), Kevin Anderson (140), Casey Winkle (145), Jay Fowler (152), Zac Crosby (160), Lucas Redd (171) and Zack Allen (189) each won all three matches for Jefferson.

Normally, winning a state title would be cause for celebration. But this season Mother Nature threw a wrinkle into any of those plans.

"We were in a big hurry to leave Macon this year with the ice and snow storm," coach Thurmond said. "We were gone probably 10 minutes after we got done rolling up the mats and posed for a team picture.

But Jefferson’s coach, who previously coached at Johnson for nine seasons, freely admits how special it feels to see his own children thriving on the wrestling mat.

"I feel doubly blessed to be able to coach my own sons," Thurmond said. "It is that much more rewarding to see them do well.

"Wrestling teaches them how to stand on their own once they step on the mat, and it also teaches a lot about team camaraderie. It’s just a good thing all the way around."

And the Thurmond boys couldn’t imagine doing anything else other than wrestling for their father. They’ve been hanging around the wrestling mat in gyms as long as they can remember.

When Cam Thurmond was just starting elementary school he got hooked on wrestling at his dad’s practices at Johnson. He would also tag along to matches and ride the bus with the team to spend time with the high school athletes.

"That really motivated me to get into wrestling," Cam Thurmond said.

And that early introduction to grappling certainly made a difference, as he finished his first two seasons in high school with a 68-3 combined mark.

And Cason Thurmond entered high school wrestling as a three-time kids state champion. The Jefferson program thrives off of a strong youth wrestling program that continues to funnel wrestlers into the high school program each year.

"The reason our wrestling program is so successful is the kids start out so young, and all the parents are so supportive," Cam Thurmond said. "Everyone works so hard and the community really rallies around the team."

And the Thurmond family pipeline doesn’t stop with sons Cam and Cason. Coach Thurmond also has two younger sons Tanner, 10, and Tyson, 5, that are eagerly working toward the day they wrestle at Jefferson High.

"These boys have all been on the mat since they’ve been 5 years old," coach Thurmond added.



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