WRESTLING: Preston Perreault signs with Truett-McConnell

Attending the ceremony at Ridgeland High School on Wednesday to see senior wrestler Preston Perreault (seated, second from right) sign with Truett-McConnell University were (front row, from left) Lee Sutton, Carrie Sutton and Parker Sutton. On the back row is Spencer Kincade, Jacob Mariakis, Elijah Foshay and Ridgeland head wrestling coach Keith Mariakis. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

Ridgeland senior Preston Perreault just wanted to keep wrestling after high school.

And on Wednesday afternoon, he signed a document that will allow him to do just that.

Perreault, better known as "Pepe" to his Panther teammates, put his name on a piece of paper that officially made him a future member of the wrestling program at Truett-McConnell University in Cleveland, Ga.

"He came up to me (earlier in the year) and said 'Coach, I know the opportunity is out there for me. I just want the opportunity to see what I can do.'," Ridgeland head coach Keith Mariakis recalled. "We're excited for him and Truett-McConnell is getting a great kid."

"During the preseason, I talked to Coach (Mariakis) about helping me set up a recruiting page and finding me some place to wrestle at the next level, because it's what I've always wanted to do," Perreault said. "I filled out a recruiting form and emailed the (TMU) coach and he called me right back. We just hit it off from there.

"This is huge and I'm so excited for it. I've been wrestling for a long time and I'm just glad to see it's finally paying off."

Perreault said the school's location was one of the reasons he opted for the NAIA program in northeast Georgia.

"I really like the fact that it's kind of off in the middle of nowhere because I'm kind of an outdoors-y type of person," he said. "I also really like the coach and the Christian foundation of the college. I feel like I'm a good Christian person that can help be a good foundation (for the wrestling team) and I just want to contribute to their program."

Wrestling began at the school back in the fall of 2011 and the Bears began competing in the Appalachian Athletic Conference this season, finishing fourth at the conference tournament. They had two senior wrestlers that qualified and will compete at NAIA Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend.

Mariakis said he got to speak to the TMU coach at that tournament while there to watch his son, Caleb, compete for Reinhardt University.

“They are just excited to have (Preston)," Mariakis said. "Their coach told me that Preston is the type of kid that they want to come in and say 'this is the way we want to do things in our program'."

Mariakis called Perreault "one of the foundation builders" of the Ridgeland program.

"He's one of those kids that never won a state title, but you hate to lose him," he added. "He was just a staple in the room. He was there every day and he gave it everything he had. In the classroom, he was what you wanted and when you see a kid like this who has the opportunity to go on to the next level and wrestle...this is why we do it."

Perreault said he plans to major in Nursing.