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Father, son pair up for wrestling haven

LAWRENCEVILLE - When Rich Gabaldon walked into Takedown Sportswear he was instantly greeted by Randy and Dustin Kawa.

"Hello, hello," Dustin said.

"I need to get a pair of wrestling shoes," Gabaldon replied.

Gabaldon only needed shoes for his son, a Peachtree Ridge baseball player and wrestler, but he could have gotten just about anything he needed at Takedown Sportswear.

From headgear to singlets to shoes and knee pads, Takedown Sportswear has a wide range of wrestling equipment, making it Georgia's largest supplier of wrestling gear and appeal.

"There's never really been a retail store in Georgia for wrestling," said Randy, who owned Ultima Trophies in Stone Mountain for 18 years. "It's kind of the same concept of the soccer pro shops and tennis and things like that, but there has never really been one for wrestling. So we decided to do it."

In just three years of existence, Takedown Sportswear has flourished. But this isn't your typical mom and pop sporting goods story. The father-son duo of Randy and Dustin have made Takedown Sportswear one of the premier clothing lines for wrestlers.

In addition to doing custom design for uniforms and training gear, Takedown Sportswear has its own clothing line.

"Instead of wrestlers buying Tapout or Fight stuff, they are buying wrestling gear," Dustin Kawa said. "We are one of the only companies in the country that sells a brand for wrestlers designed by wrestlers."

Takedown Sportswear did business with high school and college teams from 30 different states last year and will supply the Appalachian State wrestling program with its gear next season.

They recently signed a contract with the American Crown Series, the toughest and largest national tournaments in the country. That means their clothing line will be available to wrestlers throughout the county next season.

If that wasn't enough, they are also partners with the apparel company Knuckle Up Fight Gear, which is the largest mixed martial arts training facility in the state.

While Takedown Sportswear has expanded tremendously over the last year, it hasn't lost its local roots. Ever since the company first started in 2006 it has donated all of the uniforms for Team Georgia wrestlers to compete in national tournaments. With more than 125 Team Georgia wrestlers, that's roughly $25,000 worth of uniforms, which is even more impressive in tough economic times.

"They've been in Georgia wrestling for as long as a I can remember," said Anthony Flatt, Team Georgia Wrestling state chairman. "It's not just a business, they are part of the wrestling community."

Dustin Kawa is a 1999 graduate of Shiloh, where he won three state championships and was the first Georgia high school wrestler to win a national title.

After a college wrestling career at N.C. State, where he won two ACC titles, Kawa opened The Wrestling Academy, a Snellville facility where he trained anywhere from 150 to 200 kids a year. In 2007 he moved The Wrestling Academy to Lawrenceville near Sugarloaf Parkway and Ga. Hwy. 316.

That's when he and his father started Takedown Sportswear. The retail shop is in the front of the building and The Wrestling Academy is in the back.

"It's pretty much a whole wrestling enterprise," Dustin said. "You can teach wrestling, but we're a full-service, anything you can think of wrestling store. From coaching seminars to clinics, training, knee pads. The top wrestler in the state just came in here and asked advice on a knee pad. We're an advisory from beginning wrestlers to new wrestlers, to experienced wrestlers to the top guy in the state."

The Wrestling Academy also has become one of the premier training sites in the state for youth and high school wrestlers - approximately 500 kids a year train at the club, which won its fourth youth team state title last winter. Over the last five years TWA has produced 70 youth state champions, 29 high school state champions and 14 college wrestling signees.

When TWA first opened, Dustin spent most of his time training wrestlers. But Takedown Sportswear opened and created more work, so he hired an experienced staff to handle most of the training.

Gary Fisher, the general manager for TWA, is a former college All-American and wrestling coach. Keon Suggs is a Berkmar grad and former Western Michigan wrestler, Brandon Bentley is a former state champion at Parkview and Ottie Pendleton was a state champion at Westminster who wrestled at Cornell.

Their wrestlers don't have to go very far for equipment. Neither do other wrestlers in the county.

After about a 15-minute consultation with Dustin, Gabaldon and his son found the shoes they wanted from a wide selection.

A former high school and college wrestler in the Northeast, Gabaldon was blown away by Takedown Sportswear and The Wrestling Academy.

"The wrestling coach told me that The Wrestling Academy takes care of us, so we came over here," Gabaldon said. "All we had was the one sports store (when I was growing up). This is incredible."

SideBar: Wrestling

· What: Takedown Sportswear and

The Wrestling Academy

· Where: 1665 Lakes Parkway, Suite 106, Lawrenceville

· Noteworthy:

· Takedown Sportswear is Georgia's largest supplier of wrestling gear and appeal

· Dustin Kawa is a 1999 grad of Shiloh, where he won three state championships