Forest Park junior Devonte Nance enters today’s Clayton County Wrestling Championship with a 26-5 record in the heavyweight division. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
FOREST PARK — Don Williams says winning his fifth straight Clayton County Wrestling Champion will not be easy.
Prior to his run of two straight titles at Forest Park, Williams won two county championships at Lovejoy.
While the Panthers go into today’s county championship as the favorite, Williams acknowledged that several schools will provide some stiff competition.
“It is going to be a very competitive tournament,” Williams said. “I won’t say we are the favorite because the county has some good teams.”
Williams said that Jonesboro, Morrow and Mundy’s Mill will all have a shot at the title. Last season, Morrow finished runner-up at the county tournament.
Two weeks ago, Forest Park finished fourth at the Area 4-AAAAA tournament, which included its first-ever win over Union Grove. The Panthers lost to McIntosh by a point in one of the opening rounds.
Those matches have provided the Panthers with some added confidence coming into the championship.
“We have a pretty good team,” Forest Park heavyweight Devonte Nance said. “We have all the weights filled. Coming into the tournament, we have a lot of confidence. Almost beating McIntosh has been good for our confidence.”
Teammate Anthony Vasta agreed.
“We are really excited about this championship,” he said.
Forest Park has several individual wrestlers that look to have good matches in the championship, according to Williams.
Panthers junior Blake Kennedy sports a 32-5 record in the 160-pound division while Vasta is 30-6 at 113. Nance has a 26-5 record in the heavyweight division and Tavaraz Clark is 27-10 at 145.
“Our goal is to prove that we are top in the county,” said Kennedy, who has finished as runner-up the last two years. “This team has worked really hard to reach our goals. We know there are some good teams in the county. We expect Drew and Morrow to give us a challenge.”
Williams said that the level of competition in the county has risen over the last few years. He said more parity will be seen at the county tournament this weekend.
“This might be one of the most competitive county tournaments in a few years,” said Williams, who won three state titles during his tenure in Henry County. “Although wrestling is a team sport, you have to be selfish sometimes and get yours. I look for our wrestlers to do well.”
Although his team is young, Mundy’s Mill coach Bobby Bynum said he expects his team to gain some valuable experience at the tournament. Mundy’s Mill sophomore Jhante Charles could challenge at the 220 division with a 12-5 record.
“We are very young, but these guys are fast learners,” Bynum said. “We are in the process of building a program. With only two seniors in the line-up, our future looks very promising.”