BUFORD — Tony Wolfe may have the most impressive coaching resume in Georgia.
As an assistant coach with an up-and-coming Buford football team from 1996-2006, he won three championships and didn’t suffer a loss from 2001-2003. As a baseball coach, he led the Wolves to a Class AA title in 2011, his first in 17 years coaching with the program.
But the most impressive accomplishment lies within the dynasty he has built in softball. Buford won the 2013 Class AAA state championship in November, making a Wolfe a perfect 7 for 7 in state title victories since taking over the program in 2013.
That’s 11 state championships in three different sports over a 13-year span and more than half of them in softball.
His latest team went 37-1 and ended up as one of the nation’s most celebrated programs.
For his efforts, Wolfe is The Times Softball Coach of the Year.
“There are a lot of coaches out there that work just as hard and care just as much about it, and haven’t had the success that we’ve had,” Wolfe said. “You have to give all the credit to our athletes and to our school system, who provides us with a great facilities and great support.”
Since taking over as Buford softball coach in 2007, Wolfe has compiled a 227-32-2 record with no more than 11 losses in any season. The schedules haven’t been easy either, with much of that record including the hardships of sharing the Wolves’ former region, 6-AA, with perennial forces Greater Atlanta Christian and Blessed Trinity.
When Buford moved to Class AAA in 2012, it joined a relatively deep region with solid programs in Dawson County, East Hall, Banks County and Fannin County.
The results didn’t change. The Wolves won back-to-back Region 7-AAA titles, losing just one region game over the two-year span.
The 2013 team was especially successful, going 14-0 in region play. Numerous offensive team records were broken as the team unloaded 342 total runs on the year.
“From a pure talent standpoint, this team was the most talented offensively we’ve ever had,” Wolfe said. “They smashed all the records on offense that we have, even among these great state championship teams. They worked hard, and they were humble. They played for their school, their community and each other, and that’s what really stands out.”
Buford’s lone loss was a 6-5 squeaker against another one-loss team, Collins Hill, on Sept. 7. The Eagles, who went on to win a Class AAAAAA title and earned a No. 1 national ranking from Maxpreps.com — Buford was second — stormed out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter before the Wolves rallied to within one in the seventh inning. They had runners on second and third with one out, but couldn’t get the game-tying run home.
“I think it gave us a little more incentive and put a little more drive in us,” Wolfe said. “We obviously respect Collins Hill and knew going in that it could go either way. They really would’ve liked to have lined up and played again.
“It was a measuring stick for us, and it showed that we were one of the best teams in the state, but we also had a little bit of work to do.”
Buford ended up playing seven of Class AAAAAA’s top-10 teams, going 6-1 against them.
It was the closest the Wolves have been to a completely unbeaten record, which has been done once. Class A’s Gordon Lee went 38-0 in 2010.
The challenging schedule has paid off, as Buford is on the move once again. The Wolves will jump to Class AAAA next season, where they’ll have arguably their toughest region foe in years in Madison County, which went 36-4 this season and ended up third at state.
Wolfe’s expectations won’t change, as they didn’t when Buford moved from Class AA to AAA a year ago.
“We tell our kids every year that we have to be willing to risk losing to get better,” Wolfe said. “We’re going to schedule that way as much as we can.”
The results are paying off in more ways than just trophies.
For years, Buford players have praised Wolfe for his coaching techniques, which emphasizes trust in teammates and commitment to the program. It’s a philosophy he adopted from former Wolves football coach and current athletic director Dexter Wood.
Now he’s passing it down to his own players.
“It’s been a complete blessing to be able to come in and play with him as my coach,” said Morgan Walters, a standout hitter for Buford this season. “Even though I haven’t known him that long, I know that I can trust him and I know that he cares about me as a person and not just as an athlete.”
That’s exactly what Wolfe wants athletes to be saying when they leave his program. And many do.
“Ten years from now, I want our athletes to look back and say that was one of the best times of their life,” Wolfe said. “We want them to be committed. As a school we’re committed, and as a coaching staff we’re committed.”