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Decatur High sophomore ends school’s three-year wrestling medal drought

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Decatur High sophomore ends school’s three-year wrestling medal drought

Ronin Simms celebrates after finishing third in Sectionals, qualifying the DHS sophomore for the State tournament. Photo by Keson Graham (@kesonthedhspics on Instagram)

By David McFarland, contributor

This story has been updated. 

Decatur, GA — Ronin Simms has put his name in Decatur High School’s record books. The Bulldogs’ sophomore brought the first wrestling medal back to Decatur in three years, claiming 5th place at the state tournament on Feb. 17 in Macon. 

Before Simms, wrestler Sam Simonette won state in 2021. She added two Silvers at the World Open tournament to Decatur’s trophy cabinet as the only representative of the Bulldogs at Opens.

“It means a lot to me,” said Simms. “I realized how important it was as an individual and as a program. To me, it was very special though because I was so close to making it to state last year and fell short, so to get a medal this year is a good personal improvement.”

Simms has been on quite the winning streak, finishing as a champion at the region tournament before landing 3rd at Sectionals, boasting a 4W-1L record, and qualifying for state. That, however, was another beast entirely, and the highest level of competition Simms has ever wrestled in. Nonetheless, he wasn’t daunted and more than rose to the occasion – and it was quite the occasion, with around 5,000 attendees at the Macon Centreplex on the decisive third day of the tournament. Simms raced out of the gates with an 11-2 win in his first duel, which set the tone for his entire competition. He went on to finish on the leaderboard in 5th with a 3W-2L record against the best of the best in Georgia. 

Each match was made up of three two-minute periods of dueling with points awarded by the referee for feats such as takedowns (taking your opponent down to the mat and controlling him), reversals (a wrestler moving from the bottom to the top), and escapes (simply moving out from the bottom). Simms also won one of his matches by pin fall, after pinning his opponent for the full length of the referee’s three-second count. His final match was decided by the closest of margins, with Simms narrowly losing 6-7 in the last 30 seconds. Nonetheless, his state adventure was an undoubted success for both Simms himself and Decatur’s reborn wrestling program under first-year Head Coach Nicco Salvador. 

Simms’ feats are all the more impressive considering that he’s only been wrestling for two years, but he’s already fallen in love with the sport.

“My favorite part of being a wrestler is winning,” said Simms. “There is nothing like it in the world. Winning a wrestling match is different from any other sport because you have to win on your own, and there is very little anyone can do to help you while you’re wrestling.”

That drive and dedication are evident in Simms’ ability to keep pushing after a grueling debut season and tearing his AC tendon in his shoulder midway through this campaign – right before one of the busiest weeks of the season no less. “I stayed focused on my goals and I let the adrenaline during the matches even out the pain that I felt in my shoulder.” 

Such hard work has paid off, leading to two of Simms’ favorite moments as a wrestler – winning the region tournament and qualifying for state. “Those moments are the most special to me because they are the two things that I was so close to achieving last year but missed out on.”  

His rapid growth is also thanks to the support from the entire Decatur wrestling team and Coach Salvador.

“Being a part of the Decatur wrestling program has helped me improve in many ways, not only as an athlete but as a person as well,” explained Simms. “It has helped me become better at both by teaching me discipline, perseverance, coachability, and much more. Wrestling in general helps with all of these things, but having good coaches and teammates like the ones at Decatur is always beneficial.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the last time a DHS wrestler had won a medal. This story has been updated with the correct information. 

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