Cardinals take home the state championship
Expectations were high for the 1979 Red Bud Cardinal wrestling team. Undefeated in their past two seasons, the team’s state finishes had improved from 5th in 1977 to third in 1978, and the Cardinals were considered a strong preseason favorite to take it all at the 1979 state tournament. The team was returning five state finishers including three who placed 2nd. Coach John Wilson, who had built the program from scratch, had left for personal reasons to take a position at rival Armuchee High School so there was a cause for concern even for a strong program. Wilson’s replacement, Coach Frank Caputo, had very little experience in coaching wrestling, but what he lacked in technical knowledge was more than made up for with his physical conditioning program. Coach Caputo trained the team so that his athletes would dominate the third period with superior conditioning, if the match made it that far. Coach Jim Moore, a community coach, provided the team with the technical training in the rapidly evolving sport.
Coach Caputo’s three goals for the Red Bud wrestling team were 1) continue the undefeated winning streak, 2) Win the region title, and 3) Win the State Championship. All three goals were met and the undefeated record was extended to 25. Red Bud won the Region Title with 10 individual region champions and two third place finishers; and the team secured the State Championship with a school record 10 state finishers. The state finishers included three state champions, three runner-ups, three third place finishes, and one fourth.
Winning the State Championship was a community effort. Red Bud wrestled on borrowed mats and wore outdated uniforms until the 1978 season. Several fundraiser events along with generous contributions from individuals allowed the team to purchase a new mat and new uniforms. The pride that had started with winning matches had brought the small community together. On many nights, the Red Bud Dome was filled to capacity to watch the team wrestle. People who had never heard of wrestling just two years earlier were now attending home and away matches to support their Cardinals.
While records are made to be broken, the 1979 Red Bud Cardinal wrestling team can be very proud that their State Championship still stands as the only wrestling championship in Gordon County’s rich history of the sport.
The Calhoun-Gordon County Sports Hall of Fame is proud to recognize the Red Bud Cardinal wrestling State Champions of 1979.