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Awards ceremony honors Dawson County wrestling team
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The 2018-19 season’s collection of trophies and awards on display prior to the Wrestling Awards Banquet on April 14. - Photo by Bob Christian

The Dawson County wrestling program presented team members with a remarkable collection of certificates, letters and trophies earned during the course of the 2018-2019 season during its end of season awards ceremony last Sunday.

In opening comments, Head Coach Arron Haynes took time to thank  families in attendance for their “unwavering support” of the program before he summarized the season as a tribute to the team’s ability to find a way to win during the April 14 ceremony.

“It was an injury plagued season. Knee injuries, a concussion, a shoulder. All to seniors,” Haynes said. “Even while injured, the seniors continued to lead, and our underclassmen really stepped it up. I’m excited about the future with our eighth-graders.”

The Tigers finished the season with an overall record of 25-6, highlighted by team wins at the 7-AAA Lambert tournament and the Annual Amicalola Classic, while producing six state qualifiers for the GHSA traditional brackets.

By its nature, wrestling breeds familiarity and this bond was on full display as Haynes shared a personal joke or story about every member of the team as he presented Certificates of Participation to the eighth graders and varsity letter and bars to the high school members of the team.

Each of the state qualifiers, seniors Kevin Arias, Levi Baggett, Wyatt Smith, along with juniors Danny Phillips, Alex Payne and D.J. Mitchell were then presented with Georgia shaped patches for their letterman jackets, inscribed with their weight class as well as their regional and state finishing positions.

Finally, the evening’s events were concluded with the presentation of a series of awards voted on by the players and the coaches to acknowledge the contributions of individual athletes to the success of the program.

Assistant coaches Andrew Grigsby and Gregg Adams, along with Coach Haynes took turns presenting the awards that started with Braydon Lovingood being named Best Eighth Grade Player.

Sophomore Josh Dea took home the trophy for Most Improved JV Player, while Payne nabbed Most Improved Overall.

Coach Haynes praised Mitchell’s leadership and work ethic and announced that he had been elected next year’s team captain as he presented the award for Most Dedicated.  

The final three awards of the night produced the most emotional moments of the events as several members of the senior class took the floor for one last time to be acknowledged by their coaches and peers.

After accepting the Coaches Award for demonstrating “leadership and guidance for all four years on the team” Arias only briefly shook hands with Haynes before the two shared a heartfelt hug.

As Coach Adams recounted the career of this year’s Tough Tiger winner it was obvious the young wrestler held a special place in his heart, and when he finally called the name Wyatt Smith, the entire room was misty eyed with emotion.

Lastly, Coach Haynes presented Baggett with the season’s MVP Award and acknowledged the emotional impact of the evening on himself and his coaching staff.

“All five seniors have been with me for all four years and they found a way into my heart,” Haynes said. “They will be missed severely, and I admit that this will be a group of guys that will be tough to get over.”