When you first see Thomas Williams, his bulky size might seem intimidating, but when he speaks, that image melts away.
Williams’ easy-going manner counteracts his active lifestyle. Heavy into sports, he plays football; he plays soccer. He runs track and cross country. But the sport that outweighs them all is one of strength, lithe and skill–wrestling.
Having wrestled since he was 11, Williams’ love for this sport drove him to start VSU’s, the school he currently attends, first wrestling club.
“I wanted to create this club to bring more wrestling to South Georgia and hopefully build a place some of the local kids can come and continue wrestling after they graduate from high school,” Williams said.
Of course, this immense task could not be tackled alone.
South Georgia Athletic Club Coach Jason Griner discovered Williams through an ad he placed requesting a mat. After responding to and talking with Williams, Griner became interested in the club and he agreed to be Williams’ sponsor.
“I always hoped VSU would get a wrestling program, so I jumped on (to help),” Griner said.
In addition to studying and working at Valdosta State Catering, Williams has been laboring to ensure the club’s opening for this September.
“I’ve done a lot so far,” Williams said. “I had to meet with and obtain a sponsor for the team. We are currently getting full mats at the end of month, and we have 30 members and counting on the current roster.”
Williams’ work has produced a strong team.
“(They) are working hard,” Griner said. “There’s a lot of good guys that seem very dedicated and want (the club) to succeed.”
One attribute to Williams’ team will be the one that a lot of schools have overlooked–women. According to Griner, several wrestling teams in Georgia have closed down because they have refused to let women join; Williams does not plan to follow suit.
“Wrestling is open to all people of age and gender,” Williams said. “There is a girls division in the NCWA (National Collegiate Wrestling Association) so I will and do accept female participation.”
To help raise money, Griner plans on the South Georgia Wrestling Club to do fund-raisers, and Williams wants to host summer wrestling camps. The club members will also be paying dues.
Williams’ overall goals match Griner’s encouraging optimism.
“The purpose is to help young men and young women become responsible adults that their family, community, and school can be proud of,” Williams said. “Academically, our goal is to finish the season with at least a 3.0 GPA and make ‘All-Academic’ team as well. Athletically, we want to win multiple championships: state, conference, and nationals.”
Griner said, “I’m very excited and impressed and think this club will be very successful.”
The club currently meets Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at Valdosta High School. When they become an official part of VSU, Williams is planning to meet in the Rec Center.
With his ambitions, attitude and adherence, Williams strikes peoples’ attention on and off mat.
Co-worker Shanna Mikell has only known Williams for a short time, but is pleased by her experiences with him.
“He’s a great guy,” Mikell said. “He tries and does well. He’s new and still learning, but is good at what he does.”
Taken from the start, Griner possesses no worries about Williams’ future or the club’s.
“Thomas has quality,” Griner said. “He’s sincere and serious and willing to dedicate himself, not just on a college level. (As far as starting this program), he’s the man to do it.”