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ELCA’s wrestling duo of Chase Burdette and Griffin Alexander getting used to winning titles together

ELCA junior Chase Burdette won his first state wrestling championship this past weekend in Macon. (Jeff Hurndon Photography)

ELCA junior Chase Burdette won his first state wrestling championship this past weekend in Macon. (Jeff Hurndon Photography)

ELCA's Griffin Alexander shows his strength during his championship match at 195 pounds. Alexander joined Chase Burdette as ELCA's first wrestling state champs. (Jeff Hurndon Photography)

ELCA’s Griffin Alexander shows his strength during his championship match at 195 pounds. Alexander joined Chase Burdette as ELCA’s first wrestling state champs. (Jeff Hurndon Photography)


By Gabriel Stovall


McDONOUGH, Ga. — Griffin Alexander has more than just a gold medal around his neck to remind him of his state wrestling triumph.

He’s got battle scars. Literally.

Alexander, an Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy junior, won gold at 195 pounds in last weekend’s state tournament in Macon, defeating his Mount Zion, Carrollton opponent by disqualification.

How, you ask? Let Alexander tell you.

“He decided to bite me,” Alexander said. “I still have the teeth marks on my arm. It was bleeding real bad at the time. It surprised me.”

It happened, as Alexander recalls it, when the junior had his opponent on his back and in trouble.

Alexander said that initially officials were just going to rule the Mike Tyson-esque tactic as a technical fall, give him one extra point and wrestle on. But Alexander said a “head official” who was on hand at the finals match overruled them and awarded the ELCA grappler a win.

But Alexander said he wouldn’t have cared if he had to keep battling.

“I actually wanted to finish the match so that they couldn’t say that I only won because of a disqualification,” Alexander said. “I was about to pin him anyway. Either way, I was really happy.”

Doubly happy, when you consider that Alexander wasn’t the only Charger who took home gold. Fellow junior Chase Burdette also grabbed the podium’s top spot when he won a 2-1 decision in his final, also of Mount Zion, Carrollton.

The duo represents the first state champion wrestlers of any kind to come out of ELCA. And the fact that both are friends, practice partners and inside linebackers on the Chargers football team, makes the accomplishment even sweeter.

“I was so happy for Griffin when he had won,” Burdette said. “It’s crazy to think that me and him are the first ever individual state champions at ELCA ever. So it’s super surreal. I was cheering him on during his match, and I know he was doing the same for me.”

Said Alexander: “It’s a big honor to be able to say that me and Chase were ELCA’s first two champs. Since we’re best buddies, it means a lot.”

Winning state wrestling championships aren’t the only thing the duo has accomplished together. Both Alexander and Burdette are linebackers on ELCA’s football team. In 2012, they were freshmen when the Chargers won a state football championship.

And the magnitude of that achievement is not lost on Burdette.

“I think it’s just surreal to accomplish something like this in two different sports,” Burdette said. “It’s hard to comprehend sometimes. Most kids never even make it to a championship game in one sport, let alone winning one in two, so it’s special.”

Both wrestlers have had to battle unlikely odds to get where they are now. Alexander feels like he should be celebrating state title No. 3 right now. As a freshman, he went to Missouri and won the Brute Adidas Invitational — a nationally renowned tournament that attracts some of the best high school wrestlers in the country. But he was denied the opportunity of wrestling for state championships, thanks to battling pneumonia both times.
He battled through illness and still placed at state both years — fifth as a freshman and third as a sophomore. This year, Alexander said he took drastic, if not superstitious, methods to ensure his health.
“This year I was taking medicine when I wasn’t even sick,” Alexander said. “We were real nervous coming in, but it all worked out well.”
Now, both wrestlers will turn their full time focus back to preparing for the 2015 football season. Burdette has said his aspirations to play football in college may outweigh those of wrestling, while Alexander said he’s “undecided right now” as to which sport he’d want to extend his career in.
But both know for sure that trying to repeat as state wrestling champs in 2016 is a must.
“I’ve got one more year to prove that I’m the best,” Alexander said. “It’ll get harder, because now you’ve got that target on your back, and everyone’s coming to upset you. For me, it just pushes me even harder to be a two-time champion.”
And Burdette, who was hampered by back pain in last year’s state tournament, said wrestling at a championship level showed him just how tough the competition gets.
“I think once you reach the top, the hardest thing to do is to stay on top once you get there,” Burdette said. “At this level, everyone is elite. There are no bad wrestlers. A lot of kids are hungry, and have never had a championship. This showed me how hungry you have to be and how hard you have to work to win.”