Before Danny Sinnott took over as head coach of South Forsyth’s wrestling team, the program had about 20 wrestlers and struggled to achieve relevancy.
Now, in Sinnott’s second year at the helm, South’s roster runs more than 50 boys deep.
Numbers tend to breed competition, and that’s certainly been the case here. With more bodies and a newfound sense of passion, the War Eagles are off to a 17-6 start in 2013 and have already won two county duals.
This success allows them to set their eyes on state — a goal that, under the previous regime, would have been unmanageable.
"We’ve improved a lot over the last few years," said senior co-captain Tyler Crawford. "We still have a long way to go, but we’re going to keep fighting, keep working hard and see where it takes us. But this season is definitely off to a great start."
Sinnott finds it hard to pinpoint what has led to this progress, but his veteran wrestlers, who have been through their fair share of ups and downs, believe it begins and ends with the coaching.
Bryan Troye, also a senior co-captain, moved to Georgia three years ago from a community in Illinois that placed a strong emphasis on its wrestling. His first season at South was the one prior to Sinnott’s arrival after nine years at Peachtree Ridge, which he found to be a difficult transition from the rigorous competition he faced at his old home.
The roster was small. The victories were few and far between. The drive simply wasn’t there.
But once Sinnott took over, Troye saw those problems begin to wither away.
More boys — many of whom played football but had never wrestled before — were recruited to the team. While this led to an inexperienced group in 2012, the wrestlers weren’t content with where they stood.
They wanted to be better.
So they got to work. About half the team participated in voluntary off-season training this summer, a percentage Troye says is uncommonly high.
The practices are more rigorous. Two hours, five days a week, with 45 minutes dedicated to one-on-one battles. Junior varisty wrestlers challenge for varsity spots on a regular basis, doing so by calling out varsity counterparts.
Two boys hit the mats, and whoever wins— whether a raw freshman or an established senior — has a place on varsity.
Undoubtedly, the overriding purpose of South wrestling is no longer to keep athletes in shape for other sports; it’s to win. And this evolution, which appears far from over, can be traced directly to the mindset Sinnott and his staff injected into his wrestlers.
"[Sinnott] has done a lot with the program," Troye said. "He’s brought us up to a new level and I feel like he will continue to do so after I graduate."
While the improvements have been significant, the War Eagles aren’t satisfied with where they stand today.
South will have to finish in the top two of Area 6-AAAAAA to clinch a spot at the state duals tournament — no easy feat, especially with the likes of Chattahoochee and North Forsyth in the mix. However, Sinnott believes his squad is at least among the top three right now and that the opportunity is there to leapfrog one of the more established programs in the region.
"We’ve had some good competition, and we’ve won a lot, but we’ve struggled against the top tier teams in the state," Sinnott explains.
Additionally, South wants to qualify more of its wrestlers for the traditional state tournament. Last season only one War Eagle participated at traditional.
But, like everything surrounding South wrestling, the bar has been raised.
"I want five to seven of our guys to qualify for state," Sinnott said. "If we can get some guys to place at state that would be a huge accomplishment for us."