It is an achievement that was four years in the making. And one only 34 wrestlers had accomplished in nearly 60 years of the Georgia High School Association.
Dalton Blankenship and Colton Woods are part of an exclusive club of Georgia wrestlers who have never known what it’s like to look up at someone else on the podium at the state championships.
In a season full of top quality wrestling in the Rome area, the Darlington duo’s career 4-for-4 of GHSA state titles sets them up to be named the 2019 Rome News-Tribune Co-Wrestlers of the Year.
Both Tiger wrestlers went undefeated in their senior season, with Blankenship posting a 20-0 record at 132 pounds and Woods coming in at 43-0 at 138. Both are four-time area champions as well and have numerous first-place finishes.
“The biggest contribution those guys made was they don’t miss a practice, but while they’re there they are learning techniques and pushing themselves every day,” Darlington wrestling coach Kelly McDurmon said.
“They didn’t sit back on laurels and they worked hard. Just like everybody else in the room. They were keyed in on keeping it fun as well as making sure every senior was working just as hard as everybody else.”
Blankenship and Woods were only part of the Tigers’ story in the 2018-2019 season.
Darlington had five wrestlers win state titles in Macon this year and finished second in the team standings to five-time defending Class A champion Commerce.
“We were expecting something special and peaked at the right time, which is one of the things we’ve hung our hat on for years,” McDurmon said. “We try not to be at our highest in December or January. We make sure the guys are focused and healthy and accomplish the endgame, and that’s be state champions.”
Alan Cordero (126 pounds), Tyler Ingram (145) and Rhett McDurmon (170) each ascended to the top in the state in their respective divisions, with Rhett collecting his second straight title to close his senior season. Other Darlington standouts like Carl McDurmon, Garrett Sheffield and Joseph Marion made strong showings throughout the season and into the state tournament as well.
“As far as my time here, I’m glad I got to come up with guys like Colton, Rhett and Garrett,” Blankenship said. “All of us, we started as a little group of four or five kids and really were able to build up a sort of dynasty here at Darlington. And I’m going to be glad to look back on it and say I was a part of it.
“We’ve left a little bit of a legacy.”
Not that any of them want to stop now.
Darlington’s commencement ceremony Saturday had a few members of the Tigers’ wrestling team ready to step out into the world and take on the next chapter of their lives.
Four of them are going to college on wrestling scholarships, with Blankenship heading to Davidson College, Woods committed to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Rhett McDurmon signed with Washington and Lee University, and Ingram en route to Reinhardt University.
“Now that this goal that I had set really five years ago is accomplished I’ve been envisioning my goals for wrestling in college,” Woods said. “Now I have a dream of being a D-I national champ. That goal has just evolved now that I’ve done something I’ve always wanted to do.”
The Greater Rome area celebrated 10 state champions this past season, including a trio from Chattooga. The Indians’ Griffin Jarrett won his third-straight state championship at 106 pounds in Class AA after posting a 63-3 record in his junior year.
Armuchee junior Wes Conley picked up his second state title this season, winning the Class AA 113-pound championship and losing just two matches.
2019 RN-T ALL-AREA WRESTLING TEAM
Wt. Name School
106 Griffin Jarrett Chattooga
113 Wes Conley Armuchee
120 Carl McDurmon Darlington
126 Alan Cordero Darlington
132 Dalton Blankenship* Darlington
138 Colton Woods* Darlington
145 Tyler Ingram Darlington
152 Josh Buster Trion
160 Ethan Nixon Armuchee
170 Rhett McDurmon Darlington
182 Griffin Pace Rockmart
195 Ty Veatch Chattooga
220 Alex Mears Chattooga
285 Luis Medina Chattooga
*Wrestlers of the Year
Wt. Name School
106 Pierce Fincher Model
113 Nicholas Swann Rockmart
120 Peyton Morris Rockmart
126 Ivan Arguello Pepperell
132 Landon Camp Pepperell
138 Thomas Zenga Pepperell
145 Lincoln Maddux Trion
152 Ethan Sharpe Pepperell
160 Joseph Marion Darlington
170 Zoryan Hendricks Rockmart
182 Garrett Sheffield Darlington
195 Bryant Wilkinson Rome
220 Alex Stewart Trion
285 Clay Baker Trion
ARMUCHEE: Brayden Butler, Patrick Dupree, Cameron Espy, Joey Espy, Joey Green, Alexander Stevens; CEDARTOWN: Chris Davis; CHATTOOGA: Jacoby Cottrell; COOSA: Travis Pelfrey; MODEL: Duncan Blankenship, Dillon Langston, Chris Ridling, Daniel Schabort, Ray Shaw, Chrystan Smith, Joseph Wallace, Austin Wheeler, Allen Woods; PEPPERELL: Jack Bennett, Drake Miller; ROCKMART: Jakamron Ammons, Izaeah Beavers, Caleb Cason, Dalvin Millhollin, Kohl Streetman; TRION: Bowden Brock, Alonzo Francisco, Ethan Madaris, Chris Pace, Daegan Vaughn.