In the school’s five-year existence the New Manchester wrestling program has never had a wrestler qualify for the state tournament, until now.

Jalon Causey, a 160-pound junior, will wrestle in this week’s state meet.

Causey, who is 25-6 on the season, finished 8-20 as a freshman at138 and 132 pounds and 18-8 as a sophomore at 145 pounds. He has gotten bigger and better which was something he set out to do.

“Jalon’s improved tremendously with his aggressiveness this year,” New Manchester assistant coach Mark Pinkney said. “He gained a little weight, bulked up in the weight room. He told me ‘coach I’m going to make it to state this year.’ He had some goals in mind to make it to state.”

The 5-foot-8 Causey finished fourth at the  Class AAAAA B Sectionals at Allatoona, safely securing his spot in the state field. He credits discovering what was inside of him and what it took to become a successful wrestler as reasons for him achieving his goal.

“Half of a wrestling match is heart,” Causey said. “Over the years I’ve build up a mindset that I can win, along with the skills my coaches and teammates have given me, I was able to [make state].”

After hearing his desired goal of making it to sate, the New Manchester coaches looked to work with Causey’s technique on his feet and from the bottom position.

“We got him a plan coming into the season, to make sure we worked on all his takedown techniques and get them a lot sharper and get him more aggressive and tenacious on his feet,” Pinkney said. “On the bottom position we worked a lot on his switches and standup, so he wouldn’t be stuck in that bottom position.”

Pinkney is an elder statesman on the Jaguar coaching staff as head coach Jerry Flippin and assistant Donald Beacham are in their first-year with the program. Flippin likes what he has seen from Causey.

“From the beginning of the season I was told he had the potential to be where he’s at now,” Flippin said. “The thing that I like about him is that he’s very coachable. You show him, tell him what he needs to do and he makes it happen. Very aggressive, has a passion for the sport, and he’s also a great student.”

Despite this being his first-year with the wrestling program, Flippin has been at New Manchester since the school opened in 2011. He is hopeful for what Causey’s state appearance means for the program.

“We are continuing to come a long way,” Flippin said. “It’s really helping us. We got three outstanding assistant coaches. One of our coaches (Charles Cloud) is a three-time All-State, Georgia wrestler. […] I think the sky’s the limit. We got a young team. We [had] six freshmen. We were very competitive this year. I’m expecting big things for next season.”

Seeded seventh, Causey will face Cass’ C.J. McKnight in the first round at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett. McKnight, a freshman, finished fifth at the Class AAAAA A Sectionals. Pinkney thinks Causey is up to the challenge his bracket presents.

 “I think at state he’s going to be able to place in the top five and that’s my goal for him,” Pinkney said. “He’s got a pretty decent bracket. He’s seen some of the guys already. Our goal is [for him to be] a state placer this year, so I’m looking at hopefully top five.”

Causey is comfortable facing new wrestlers or wrestlers he has faced before – no matter who won the first meeting.

“I’ve gotten my revenge on people who have beaten me before,” he said. “They can do the same. It’s just whoever’s going to step on the mat, wrestle their best, and have the most heart that day. I feel like I got the wrestling ability to place first. I just got to wrestle to it.”

Perhaps just as important as where Causey finishes at state is what just having him there means to the New Manchester program.

“This is a first in history for us,” Pinkney said. “That’s tremendous for the program. It’s a big thing for us.”

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