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School board to loan wrestling program $10,000 for new mats

The Grady County School System’s wrestling program received lots of attention at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
School board members and Superintendent Lee M. Bailey paid tribute to Marcus Gaines for being the first-ever Syrupmaker wrestler to be a state finalist. In the state finals last month, Gaines took on the fourth ranked wrestler in the nation and lost in a tough match.
Wrestling Coach Kevin Elliott praised Gaines for his hard work and preparation. “It’s tough for our guys from south Georgia to compete because they have wrestling all year long in north Georgia schools,” Elliott told the school board.
Joining Gaines for the student recognition Tuesday night was his mother Yvette Bell, twin brother Maurice Gaines, grandmother Ruth Bell and aunt Felicia Hunter.
Also at this week’s school board meeting, Coach Elliott presented a request to purchase new wrestling mats for the program to replace the ones that have been used for the last 13 years.
In presenting the request, Interim Cairo High School Principal and Asst. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kermit Gilliard said that this was the first year the wrestling program suffered injuries including concussions.
“We don’t know if the mats are the cause of that or not, but they need to be reconditioned or replaced. We would like to replace the mats and the best price is for a two-inch mat, which is thicker than the current mats,” Dr. Gilliard said.
According to Coach Elliott, he recently sold one of the current mats for $3,000 and is hopeful he will be able to sell another one for $3,000. The wrestling coach said that Grady County School System Athletic Director Todd Jones has appropriated $2,000 toward the purchase of new mats from athletic funds leaving a balance of $10,000 to finance the $18,000 purchase from Tiffin Mats.
Dr. Gilliard said the request to the board was to “loan” the wrestling program the $10,000 and the program would repay the loan over a five year period with fundraisers and with other funding.
Board member Dave Dumas asked if Finance Officer Dan Broome had said such a loan would be permitted. According to Dr. Gilliard, Broome had signed off on the loan proposal. Broome was not present at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Board member Jeff Worsham said he had asked if more money could be taken from the athletic department’s funds, but was told there were not sufficient funds in the account to cover the purchase of the mats.
Coach Elliott also recommended mats large enough to cover the surface of the old CHS gymnasium, which would allow four matches to take place at one time. He said CHS currently hosts four tournaments a year here.
“I want to thank Coach Elliott for all he does for our students and congratulate Marcus on his accomplishments. It’s really a great program and I’d like to recommend the board approve the loan as presented,” Superintendent Bailey said Tuesday night.
The board voted unanimously to loan the wrestling program the $10,000 needed to move forward with the purchase of new mats.

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