Colby Yates never cuts himself any slack. The pursuit of perfection always makes him work to get better.
He’ll never lead one to believe that he is pleased with any of his past accomplishments on the wrestling mat. A first place finish always leaves room for improvement, and anything less than the best, well, that just would never satisfy this West Hall High senior at any point in his illustrious career.
"I never walked on the mat to lose," Yates said, who always found a way to back up the talk.
Yates highlighted his career with a senior season that included a 57-2 record, and being named Hall County champion, Area 7-AAA champion (lightweight most valuable wrestler) and a second place finish at the traditional state wrestling meet in Class AAA at 130 pounds. He finished first in every meet he competed in during his senior season prior to the state meet at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, and he was named the most outstanding wrestler of the Blessed Trinity tournament.
For his efforts, Yates has been tabbed as the Times’ 2007 Area Wrestler of the Year.
He finished his high school career with the distinguished honor of becoming the winningest wrestler in Hall County history with 213 wins (172 by pins), a four-time state placer, three-time Area 7-AAA champion and a three-time Hall County champion.
That’s a pretty good track record for a kid that entered high school with the goal of 100 wins in his career.
"I’m convinced he’s the most successful athlete in any sport in West Hall history," Yates’ coach during his career at West Hall, Rod Galvan, said. "I’d take all the other accomplishments he achieved over a state title."
Yates approached his state championship dreams like he did everything else during his high school career. He didn’t want to take any perceived short cuts.
Her could have gone to state at 135 pounds and wrestled against eventual state champion Mikey Mooney, from Gilmer, and would have been a likely candidate to win. Yates defeated Mooney twice head-to-head during the season.
But Yates would have rather had a challenge. He wanted to de-throne two-time state champion Damon Cadle of Cass.
That’s why he wrestled through the brackets at the state tournament on a crash course to compete with the Colonels’ powerful lightweight wrestler.
"If I was going to win state, I wanted to wrestle someone worth beating," Yates said. "I didn’t want to be remembered as someone who took the easy way to winning state."
He wrapped his entire high school career around winning that state title: Area titles, Hall County titles and win records for Hall County were trivial.
So when Yates came out on the losing end of a 7-1 decision he was heart-broken, devastated and crushed emotionally, all at the same time.
"When I lost at state, I felt like everything I had worked for the last four years I had failed at," Yates said. "It was a very bitter way to end my high school career."
But Galvan said that Yates’ high school endeavors are just the first chapter in the soon-to-be college grappler’s career. Yates says he plans to make the next step in his life as a wrestler at either Campbellsville University (Ky.) or Belmont-Abbey College (N.C.).
And the same demands he placed on himself in high school are only going to get tougher in college. Yates wants to be a two-time All-American in college.
"My attitude is to always improve," Yates said. "I can never be good enough."