Forest Park wrestlers celebrate their win at the Clayton County Duals Wrestling tournament over the weekend. (Special Photo)
FOREST PARK — After three years in the building process, Don Williams said his Forest Park wrestling team is turning the corner toward where he wants them to be.
It was never more evident than last weekend when the Panthers won the Clayton County Wrestling Duals Championship held at Mundy’s Mill High.
This was the second year that the county has held a duals team championship. The traditional county championship will take place next month at Forest Park.
“It was a great way to show how our hard work and dedication has paid off,” Forest Park senior Anthony Vasta said. “We put in a lot of work at practice to get to this point. I’m proud of our team.”
After leaving Lovejoy three years ago, Williams moved over to Forest Park. He said it usually takes three to five years to build a championship-caliber program.
“I knew we were headed in the right direction,” Williams said. “I’ve had a good group of wrestlers to work with, and they are buying into what we want. Many of them have gone through some private training to get ready for the season. These kids have sold out on what it takes to win.”
Forest Park defeated Morrow 45-33 in the finals to take the championship. The Panthers cruised through their first three matches with wins over Mount Zion, Riverdale and Jonesboro before meeting Morrow in the final match.
“This just shows that we can compete,” Forest Park junior Blake Kennedy said. “Winning this tournament gives us a lot of confidence as we move forward with the season.”
After hosting a tri-meet on Tuesday, the Panthers are preparing for the upcoming South Metro Invitational this weekend at Alcovy High. The South Metro Invitational, which has been around since 1971, will feature 30 teams from around the area.
Williams said it will be some good experience for his younger wrestlers as they prepare for area competition.
“Our veteran wrestlers have been through this and know what to expect,” Williams said. “It is a good feeling going into a tournament and knowing that you have at least a chance to do well.”
Said Vasta: “Winning the county duals has given us a lot of confidence. We want to continue to remain humble and keep it moving. We are definitely looking forward to this coming weekend’s tournament.”
Forest Park has 12 starters back from last season, and has a huge junior class. Williams said the future continues to look bright for the Panthers with 11 juniors expected to return next season.
But the coach is not discounting this season by any means.
“Most our guys are wrestling up a class until January,” Williams said. “When January rolls around, you want to get your weight down, and get them lined up for the area championships. I’m not making any predictions because we are in a tough area with Ola, Whitewater, Union Grove and Starr’s Mill. We just have to be prepared when the time comes.”