Jefferson High wrestling coach Doug Thurmond wasn’t fazed by his team’s move from Class A to AA this past season.
Though there was more competition, the level of play didn’t change the success of his wrestlers.
"(Class AA) is a little thicker," Thurmond said. "There’s a lot more teams out there you have to look out for, in terms of depth."
Still, the Dragons won their ninth straight state traditional and eighth straight state duals, all of which have come under the watch of Thurmond. This year’s team featured 11 top-six finishes at state traditionals, including two winners.
Thurmond attributes a large amount of the team’s success to keeping with a typical schedule despite the change in classification. As they’ve done in the past, Jefferson faced several opponents from bigger schools during the regular season.
"Every year, we wrestle in predominantly AAAA and AAAAA tournaments," Thurmond said. "Our kids are used to that caliber of wrestling, so when we moved up to AA, it wasn’t a big change for them."
But wrestling against the big schools hasn’t been the only factor in Jefferson’s success on the mats. Thurmond believes it comes from a community highly supportive of its youth wrestling program, something Thurmond brought to the area more than a decade ago and still coaches today. Competing as part of USA Wrestling, the program has produced state champions as young as 5- and 6-years-old.
The results of the program are evident when the wrestlers enter high school with years of experience already, giving them an upper hand in competition.
"It’s probably one of the smartest things I’ve done as a coach," Thurmond said. "It’s helped our program out immensely.
"We’ve done a really good job in getting the right people to help our youth program, which has kept a lot of kids involved."
Among the participants in the youth program are Thurmond’s two youngest sons, who at 6- and 11-years-old are already competing at a state-wide level.
Thurmond’s two older sons, 103-pounder Cason Thurmond and 135-pounder Cam Thurmond, wrestle for Jefferson High and have both won state championships in their weight classes. Cason, a sophomore, picked up his second state title this year, while Cam, a senior, is a four-time finalist and a two-time champion.
The achievements of the two brothers have only made their father’s job even more of a pleasure.
"It’s nice to spend that time with your kids while doing something you love," Thurmond said. "I’ll look back and be glad that I was able to spend time with them while doing my profession."
That’s not to say that coaching the other wrestlers is any less important to Thurmond. He stresses the importance of training for wrestling as a number one priority to everyone. As a result, Thurmond’s Dragons are a yearly threat for opponents when the state tournaments roll around, no matter what classification.
"Wrestling is a love and desire of mine. I don’t treat it as a secondary sport," Thurmond said. "If I don’t treat it as a secondary sport, the kids will pick up on that."