Vancleave’s Inaugural Wrestling Season

A new era of wrestling in Mississippi has begun.

In addition to Ocean Springs, who has fielded a team for over a decade, all three high schools in the Jackson County District have wrestling teams this season.

On November 30th, the Bulldogs rolled out the welcome mats for the first wrestling meet in Vancleave history.

22 wrestlers, middle school through high school, make up Vancleave’s inaugural wrestling team. Each wrestler comes to the sport for their own reasons.

Sophomore Brysen Daugherty said, “I had a lot of time on my hands and I was really looking forward to knowing how to defend myself. And overall it’s just a really fun sport.”

7th grader Quinton Carrol said, “Originally I wanted to do it for conditioning for football. But then I just kinda fell in love with the sport.”

Sophomore Maison Kleist said, “Me and my best friend always liked watching WWE. So I guess that had a big factor into it.”

7th grader Colton Gilbert said, “My dad was friends with the coach and my coach really encouraged me to do it. And I really wanted to do it.”

Most students on the team had never wrestled until 6 months ago, which means there was a bit of a learning curve when it came to technique, terminology, and diet.

Daugherty said,”I have a high metabolism which helped me go down pretty well. But the only thing I had to cut out was sweet tea and just drink water.”

While wrestling has been a MHSAA sanctioned sport for some time, there still isn’t an official state championship. In June, however, the association agreed to sponsor a statewide invitational individual tournament.

The event, which will be held February 19th, will include wrestlers from all 9 of the high school teams currently in the state.

Kleist said, “My favorite part about wrestling is just the rush that you get when it’s just you and that other opponent and everyone’s watching and everyone’s cheering for that opponent and you. It’s just a big rush of adrenaline.”

Although football is king in the South, the wrestling season, which runs from October through February, gives football players a chance to try a different kind of off-season training.

Vancleave High School wrestling coach and Mississippi Wrestling Foundation vice president David Sutherland said,”It allows them to learn body control and power. And that’s some of the biggest things you need in football to be successful when hitting, blocking, or tackling.”

The benefits of wrestling go beyond just sports.

Sutherland said, “They’re on the mat by themselves they can’t blame anyone else when they have a failure. So they have to be able to look at themselves and figure that out and how to come back from that. And that’s great learning lesson in life.”

For more information on the mission to grow wrestling in Mississippi and how to get involved, visit

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