As far as impressive streaks are concerned, no athletic program in Northeast Georgia has been on a run like the Jefferson High wrestling team.
Since 2001, the Dragons have reeled off nine consecutive traditional state titles and eight straight duals championships, giving the program 17 state titles in a nine-year span. The nearly decade-long dominance has not gone unnoticed, and the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame has named the Dragons "Northeast Georgia’s Most Dominating Team."
"It’s pretty awesome," Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said of the honor. "It’s a real good thing for our program. I’m proud of the guys that put in a lot of time and a lot of effort. It’s nice for them to be recognized."
It’s especially rewarding since it’s the program getting honored and not just one group of wrestlers. Thurmond said that there is no way to separate one champion from the next, and that the program’s success is because of the dedication his wrestlers have for the sport.
"A lot of it has to do with hard work," he said "They work hard in the offseason and compete all summer.
"We really don’t treat wrestling as a secondary sport," he added. "It’s something that they take serious and we take serious."
And it all starts at a young age.
With four wrestling sons, Thurmond made a point to start a USA Wrestling program in Jefferson and those successful youth wrestlers keep winning once they reach high school.
"We started the USA youth program 12 years ago and that helps a lot," Thurmond said.
So does the fact that Jefferson continues to win state titles, even after moving up from Class A to Class AA prior to the start of the 2008-09 school year.
Year after year, as champions graduate, future champions take to the mat, and according to Thurmond, they all share the same mentality.
"They don’t want to be the team that breaks the streak," he said. "We try to remind them to not live on your past teams’ success."
Those messages are often displayed on T-shirts and the coaching staff at Jefferson never lets the wrestlers forget that ideology.
"We tell them, if you have a chance to win, then you need to do everything in you can to get there," Thurmond said.
For the past nine years, the Dragons have done just that.
The Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located in the Northeast Georgia History Center on the campus of Brenau University.
The History Center will recognize athletic excellence at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m., Aug. 29, at the Georgia Mountain Center in downtown Gainesville. Guest speaker Damon Evans, athletic director for the University of Georgia, will help honor 15 Northeast Georgia Athletes and one highly successful team. There will be five retired athletes inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and an additional "Elite 10" athletes, some of Northeast Georgia’s best athletes of the last 10 years.
Table sponsorships are available for $350, and table sponsors may choose to have their table host one of the athletes to be recognized on a first-come, first-served basis. A limited number of individual tickets are available for $25. Call the History Center at 770-297-5900 to make your reservations.