But what Kannon Madden, Joe Bexley and Brock Cooper all share in common is that one state championship just wasn’t enough, shedding positive light on the notion of becoming repeat offenders.
All three Bremen High School wrestlers will ultimately wrap up their prep careers with multiple state crowns, as Madden earned his second and Bexley recorded his third this year in their state swan songs. And then there’s Cooper, just a sophomore, who has now captured two state titles in as many tries at the high school level.
Bexley capped off a perfect, 54-0 senior campaign by tying a school record as a three-time state champion, while making history as the first heavyweight in Georgia to ever become a four-time state finalist.
Madden, meanwhile, won his second state championship at 152 pounds, going back-to-back in his junior and senior seasons. Cooper, wrestling at 132 pounds this year, now has a chance to do what no other Blue Devil grappler has accomplished and become a four-time state champion by the time all is said and done.
The Blue Devil trio credited Bremen coach Tony Armas for getting them where they are today, even if the road to that destination wasn’t always the most pleasant ride.
“It was hard-earned being here with coach Armas every day, getting drilled at and yelled at. Just being sweaty all the time and cutting weight and having him get in your face if you didn’t do a move right. But it was good. It made you a man. Real discipline these days is rare, and Armas will definitely make you discipline. He’ll humble you and he’ll discipline you and it just matures you,” Madden said.
“You see a huge difference from the freshmen that are in here to the sophomores. Even from the beginning of your career to the end. Some of the freshmen this year went from a kid to a man in a heartbeat. Wresting does that to you.”
Bexley said being able to have the success he did and do it at Bremen made it all the more special.
“I’m happy. But the only thing I can do is thank God for everything and knowing that without Him, none of this would be possible,” Bexley said. “But I’m really happy and glad that I could do it here at Bremen. I’m glad that I had a coach like coach Armas that just continued to push me and helped me get through everything to reach my goals.”
Both Bexley and Madden will continue their careers at the next level, with Madden headed to Shorter University and Bexley en route to The Citadel.
Madden said knowing that his wrestling endeavors aren’t over helped ease the emotions of his high school career coming to an end.
“It’s bittersweet. Everybody says that, I guess. But I’m going to Shorter to wrestle for college, so I’ll be relatively close to come back here if I ever just want to come and practice after our official practice. I saw it coming and accepted it a while back. It didn’t get to me as much,” Madden said.
One thing Madden wanted to be sure he did this year was match his older brother, Slade, who was a two-time state champion at Bremen. Armas said it’s pretty neat to see how many guys come through the program where an older brother, uncle or even their father was a past state champion.
“They never want to have someone in the family be more successful than they are. They’re always trying to exceed what the previous one has done. His father was a state runner-up at Mt. Zion, so that whole family has been pretty successful,” Armas said. “[Bexley’s] brother was a state-placer for us in 2009. You know, Michael [Bexley]. So it is sort of a family deal.”
Cooper emerged on the scene in a big way last year, pulling off somewhat of an upset to win his state championship. This time around, he was a well-known commodity once he got to Macon, but that didn’t bother him one bit.
“There’s a lot of kids that have targets on their back. I just came in like it was any other year, practiced hard and did everything the same as I did last year. I knew I did what it took to win a state championship last year, so I knew I had to do that again,” Cooper said. “It paid off. I never really did think about a target on my back or anything like that.”
That said, moving from Class A to Class AA did present its challenges, one Cooper enjoyed and thrived under in Macon.
“My matchups at state were a lot different this year. I beat all of my opponents by three points this year and last year I had two pins going into the finals. So it definitely got tougher. I liked the atmosphere and I liked having the pressure of Jefferson being there, too. I don’t care if they’re there. It’s just fun to have them,” Cooper said.
And while Cooper came to Bremen with a promising reputation from middle school and the youth circuit, it’s been a pretty smooth transition for a guy that is now one of the elder statesmen in the program.
“We’re not real surprised that he’s won two state titles. He probably wasn’t the favorite as a freshman, but he works hard and he’s constantly working on getting better and improving on positions,” Armas said. “He understands what it takes and is looking to wrestle at the next level, also. That’s a goal he has, as well.”
With two years of high school remaining, Cooper understands he has an opportunity to leave a legacy that no other Bremen wrestler has achieved. But his No. 1 priority right now is strictly set on his junior season.
“Well, I definitely want to focus on three before I focus on four. When you start focusing on four, you forget about three. It would mean a lot to me to be a three-time state champion. There’s only a couple of kids that have ever done that, and I’d love to say that I was just as good as them and won just as many things as they have. Getting four would be something that’s never been done here at Bremen. It would be very nice and I would like to do that,” Cooper said.
And while Cooper still has more work to do at Bremen, the seniors can begin to reflect on their Blue Devil careers — and they do so with the next level, the next match in their sights.
“I’m excited. I’m ready to go. I know if I didn’t wrestle [in college], I’d regret it for my life. I love wrestling and I’m just going to take it as far as I can,” Madden said.