By Kevin Price
For GCS Athletics
Glynn Academy has a long and storied athletics history that includes several state team championships and also some noteworthy individual state titles as well.
To name a few of those who by past Glynn athletes, Davis Love III won the state individual crown when he played golf for the school back in the early 1980s before going on to an illustrious professional career in the game.
Also, there was Mel Lattany who won the high-point trophy at the state track meet back in the late 1970s when he competed for the Red Terrors before ultimately becoming one of the top sprinters in the world while representing the United States in international competition.
But while Glynn hasn’t offered wrestling as long as it has some of those other varsity sports, the Red Terrors didn’t have a state champion in the sport until Friday night. Now, the old school on the south end of Brunswick can say it has produced a wrestling champion, too.
GA junior Jackson Wakeland claimed a state championship late Friday when he won the 182-pound weight division at the Class AAAAAA Traditional Wrestling State Championships held at the Macon Centreplex in Macon.
Wakeland became the first state champion in the sport for Glynn and also is only the second wrestler from Glynn County to win an individual wrestling championship. Brunswick High’s Trace Insalaco won his weight class back in 2019 to become the first individual winner from a county high school.
The title triumph made this a memorable season for Wakeland who comes from a wrestling family but has only been competing himself since starting high school.
“This season will be one to remember for sure,” he said. “All the hard work and dedication put into this season revealed itself when it mattered most. I’m happy to have shared the experience of being the first Glynn Academy wrestling state champion with my teammates, coaches, family and friends.”
Wakeland had a strong backing Friday when he finally took the mat for his state final match around 10:30 p.m., well after the mandatory 6 p.m. weigh-in for the competitors.
His cheering section included his mom Kati Wakeland, his younger brother who is a freshman at Glynn and also a member of the wrestling team, GA principal Matthew Blackstone and athletic coordinator Jeff Parker who made the drive up for the huge match.
His dad, Scott Wakeland, was seated just outside the lines as the head coach for the Terrors. Obviously, it was a thrill for him to see his son clinch a title while coaching him through the biggest match in his young and promising career to this point.
“I’m extremely proud of him,” his dad said. “He worked hard building his endurance, studied, practiced technique and managed his weight well throughout the season which helped him to peak physically and mentally at the state tournament. I’m just lucky that I get to coach him.”
In perhaps a strange twist of fate, Wakeland had to defeat a familiar foe to claim the state championship. His opponent in the final was senior Brayden Bell from South Effingham who had beaten Wakeland just a week earlier in overtime to win the area championship at 182 pounds, forcing Wakeland to settle for a runner-up finish which still got him a spot in the state tournament.
“Both matches were battles, and we were praying for a rematch in the state finals,” Coach Wakeland said. “Jackson was more tentative in the area tournament. He was much more calculated in the finals and was prepared to counter Brayden’s blast double. Jackson was counting on his conditioning to help him weather the storm. He knew he could beat him in the end.”
The first period of the final showdown ended with neither wrestler able to score a point. Bell chose to open the second period on the bottom and got an escape to score the first point of the contest. But in the third period, Jackson also chose to start on the bottom, and he would also manage an escape to even the score at 1-1.
Wakeland used his continued movement to force a technical violation by Bell for grabbing his clothing, and ultimately that mistake by the South Effingham standout proved to be the deciding point as Wakeland came away with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over his rival from Region 2-AAAAAA.
“The first day of the tournament was a long battle to get to the top,” Wakeland said. “The second day was the day to leave everything on the mat.”
The Class AAAAAA tournament opened Thursday with the preliminary matches for all weight divisions. For Wakeland, that meant wrestling four times and winning four times to make it to the match for the state championship on Friday night.
He won his first two matches on Thursday by pin and needed overtime for a 13-9 victory over Nathan Silva in the quarterfinal round to remain on track for the title. His final match on Thursday was the semifinal against Chase Disney from Creekview which Wakeland won by a 9-4 decision to advance to the Friday night final.
That gave the Wakeland combo almost 24 hours to prepare for the final and the rematch with Bell for the state championship. Getting the game plan together was the easy part since they had already somewhat prepared that part of the package, but the wait time for the championship tilt made for the biggest challenge prior to the two strong competitors from Southeast Georgia going toe-to-toe for a gold medal.
“We watched the other matches, just tried to keep him relaxed,” Coach Wakeland said of the grueling wait to take the mat for a chance at glory.
With the victory in the state final, Wakeland finished the season with a sparkling 42-3 won-loss record. His losses were to a pair of state qualifiers from Florida and the championship match in the area tournament against Bell.
Wakeland also became the third member of his family to claim a state wrestling crown. He has two cousins who several years ago won state championships on the same night, one of them winning in Pennsylvania and the other winning in Michigan. His cousin from Pennsylvania is actually a two-time state winner.
Coach Wakelend also was a good wrestler in high school and standout football player at Spring Grove High back home in Pennsylvania. He held his school’s career rushing record for more than three decades until it was eventually broken. Coach Wakeland also played sprint football and wrestled at West Point while attending college there.
Wakeland has been coaching at Glynn since 2010 and has been the head wrestling coach the last two seasons for the Terrors.
Jackson Wakeland is a champion in academics, too. He currently holds a 4.2 grade-point average while taking honors courses. He is a member of National Honor Society and Beta Club while also serving as a leader on the student leadership team at St. Simons Community Church. Wakeland is a graduate of St. Simons Christian School which he attended prior to enrolling at Glynn.
He grew up playing soccer, baseball and basketball and had been a member of the Glynn football team until choosing to concentrate on wrestling this school year.
Wakeland hopes to compete in college and earn a wrestling scholarship before graduating from high school next year.In the meantime, he will attempt to do what most first-time champions like to try and do if they can.
Of course, that would be to become a two-time state champion next season.
Right now, though, who could blame Wakeland if he wants to eat a dozen cream-filled doughnuts and then nap all afternoon on the couch to celebrate his state-championship triumph. He doesn’t have to make weight anytime soon.
“His teammates, opponents, clinicians, coaches, teachers, family and friends motivated and inspired him to achieve,” Coach Wakeland said. “Most of all, I want to thank the Lord for giving Jackson gifts and talents which he has always used to bring glory and honor to Him.”