Before a packed house at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Tiger Joe Perry celebrated.
Moments before, Perry defeated Tyler Scott from Dublin High School to win the state championship at 130 pounds by an 8-6 score.
It was the end of a long, hard road for Perry. Perry ended his season early last year due to some personal issues. He has literally fought his way back to take the state title. Perry was thought of so highly by his teammates that he was elected team captain.
“I’m ecstatic,” commented Perry in the breezeway of the Gwinnett Arena.
“I am so happy for my family. I hope this will lead me to a chance of going to college and wrestle,” he added.
Perry fell behind 2-0 at the end of the first period against Scott.
Scott had defeated Perry last week at the East Sectionals at Jefferson High School by two points.
“Joe didn’t wrestle as well as he should. Joe is tough and hopefully he will do better this weekend,” Haynes said after Perry’s sixth place finish at the sectional tournament the week before.
Haynes was right, Perry did “save up” for this weekend.
After the first period, Perry dominated the rest of the match against Scott.
Perry took the lead 4-2 in the second period with a quick reversal. He didn’t look back as the clock wound down. On the final whistle, Perry celebrated by leaping high into the air.
Perry went straight to his family and gave each a big hug. The last hug was for Haynes, who has been a huge supporter of Perry since his return to the team this year.
“Amazing,” was the word Haynes used to describe his star wrestler.
“I couldn’t be happier for Joe. He has come through a lot and I’m so proud of him. He deserves it,” Haynes added.
Perry is the first wrestler to win an individual state championship in Coach Haynes’ tenure as head coach at Dawson County High School.
Thursday, Perry picked up his first win against Austin Williams from Sonoraville with an 18-2 technical fall. Perry dominated from the opening whistle.
Perry then conquered Austin Marlow from North Oconee with an 11-0 major decision Friday night.
“He has a great chance now,” said Haynes after Friday’s match against his North Oconee opponent.
Later Friday, Perry defeated Travis Elrod from Greater Atlanta Christian by a 9-2 score to reach the title match.
Perry, a senior, finishes his career at Dawson County with over 100 wins.
As a senior, Perry completed his final season with an amazing 56-7 record.