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Ellijay, GA
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by Robbie Bills
rbills@timescourier.com

Gilmer County has always supported its athletic teams and Gilmer High School wrestling now has a brand-new champions board to honor its state placers.

The board was constructed by Martin Robinson of Pride Signs and stretches across an entire wall of the the Noah Harris Center. It is a lavish upgrade over the previous board, which was painted particle material with stenciled names. The new board lists GHS’ 85 state placers by finish, year and weight class.

It was made possible through donations from United Community Bank (UCB), North Georgia Physical Therapy (NGPT) and Ellijay Telephone Company (ETC).

Jim Fox, who is ETC’s longtime wrestling correspondent and father of a former state champion, led the dedication ceremony, Feb. 2.

Amber Davenport of UCB echoed the sentiment of NGPT and ETC, saying, “We are very proud to have the opportunity to support this great program. The entire program is such an important part of our community and we’re all very proud of their accomplishments.”

GHS supporters, former wrestlers, families and fans joined the celebration and everyone was given an opportunity to address the crowd.

Rick and Lucy Harris, parents of former state champion, the late 1st Lt. Noah Harris, spoke to the crowd and Lucy reminded everyone that it took many more people to achieve a state placement than the names listed on the board.

“I see so many names up here of people I taught and kids who were Noah’s friends. I see thousands of people, who each one of those names (on the board) represents. There are teammates who worked really hard and made them better so they could have their name up there,” she said.

Jerry Teague, who placed fourth in 1993, reiterated this point saying, “I went 1-19 my freshman year as a first-year wrestler and remember a trip back from Fannin County. A senior named Roger McTaggart saw I was discouraged and said, ‘Jerry, stick with it, you’re going to be good.’ If it wasn’t for Roger, who knows, I may not have wrestled.” 

He added, “The guys who aren’t on that board are a big part of the success of this program. My son is a freshman and currently third string and I try to tell him that you never know what is going to happen. He’s improving someone (at practice) everyday by being there.”

Former state champions Mikey Mooney and Michael Fox mentioned the positive effects of wrestling, such as character building and dealing with adversity. During recent job interviews, their wrestling background was thoroughly discussed and viewed favorably by hiring companies.

GHS Head Coach Sam Snider was the school’s first state champion in 1981 and has coached the majority of wrestlers who placed for Gilmer over the years.

“The foundational people of our community really appreciate our success and the majority of our wrestlers are respectful young men,” he said. “I think that really makes our community proud and I believe they like our character just as much as they like the wins.

“The board gives credence and creates a strong memory and pride for those who placed, especially those early placers when we didn’t have many. In some years we’ve six, seven or eight guys listed. The board signifies a team effort and is a unifying factor for previous wrestlers.”


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