Hall County Championships
When: 5 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Gainesville High
Cost: $7 per day, $12 for tournament pass
Defending champion: Flowery Branch
OAKWOOD — If you were able to dig deep into Tanner Yates’ DNA, you would learn that this West Hall High senior was probably genetically predisposed to being a wrestler. How else could you explain how Yates, along with older brothers Brennan and Colby and younger brother Conner, have been so successful in the sport?
“We all wrestle in my family,” Yates said. “It’s kind of like a lifestyle.”
Not only have the Yates brothers all wrestled, but they’ve set up a family legacy of success with Tanner currently carrying the family torch.
As a family, the Yates brothers crossed the 500-win mark with Tanner’s win against Central Gwinnett two weeks ago. Tanner, currently at 186 career wins, is shooting to join Colby as one of only three wrestlers in Hall County history to top the 200 mark. With 213 wins, Colby is tied with Flowery Branch High graduate Danny Bell for the most wins in Hall County history.
Tanner, a 140-pounder, figures he can get a big jump on getting to the 200-win milestone with the possibility of eight more wins in the Hall County Duals Championship, which begins Friday at Gainesville High. He’s also got the Area 8-AAA traditionals, state sectionals and state traditionals and state duals ahead to get to his ultimate goal.
“Tanner’s come a long way as a wrestler,” West Hall coach Eric Radich said. “I think he decided somewhere around his sophomore year that he wanted to put in the work to be the best wrestler he could be, and now he’s focused and wrestling really well.”
While Yates is thrilled with the idea of joining the Hall County 200 club, he’s more excited about the family legacy. After Tanner graduates this spring, Conner will be ready to step up to high school and keep the wins ticker going.
“I knew I had to do it for our family,” Tanner said. “It was really a heart-warming moment to get to 500 (as a family).”
All the Yates brothers started wrestling in the seventh grade, as well as playing other sports along the way. In Tanner’s case, he was ready to drop everything else when he caught the wrestling bug.
He also says that his drilling and running partner Omar Lopez has been just as instrumental in his development with the hours they’ve put in together over the past several years. Tanner’s also calling his coach constantly to see how he can improve.
The family picture for the Yates’ wrestling background wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the role of their parents, Patty and David. Tanner says his mother is always there to celebrate a big win or to console after a tough loss.
They’ve also made their home open to the wrestlers to keep the unit strong, even away from team functions and practice.
“I have a very supportive family,” Tanner says. “And wrestling at West Hall, we might not have the best team, but we have the most fun team to be a part of.”
Even though the Yates boys do share so many similarities, their styles on the mat are varied. Tanner says Brennan, who racked up 107 career wins, was the most basic in his approach to wrestling, while Colby was the most dominant. Tanner says his focus is to stay zoned in on the technical aspects to gain an edge.
“I’m most improved in the mental side of things,” he said.
He’s also learned to have a short memory when he does lose a match. A fifth-place finisher at state last season, Yates says he struggled early on in his career with losing and it had a ripple effect when he stepped back on the mat again. Now, he can forget about losing a match as soon as he’s done shaking the opponent’s hand.
The perfect example of Yates’ mental maturity was when he scored the family’s 500th win. With the count at 499, Yates lost a match against a wrestler from Clarke Central, but bounced right back with a win against Central Gwinnett with a “pin and surfboard” double arm bar move.
“Tanner is very competitive and wants to be the best he can be,” Lopez said. “When he wrestles, he goes non-stop.”
Even though Tanner doesn’t have enough matches remaining in his high school career to top Colby’s win total, he still has a chance to have bragging rights as the first state champion in the family. Colby was a four-time state placer and a state runner-up twice in his career.
Tanner feels like his biggest competition for the state title at 140 in Class AAA will come from an opponent from Locust Grove. If he wins, Yates says Lopez would deserve a spot on the podium with him for all the time they’ve sacrificed together to get better.
After high school, Yates is set to wrestle in college next year at Limestone College in Gaffney S.C. where his brother, Colby, plans to join him.