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Archer wrestlers visit elementary students

Staff Photo: John Bohn Brady Smith, 5, listens intently as his classmates ask questions of Archer High School wrestler Daniel Bullard, 15, during Bullard's reading of  the book Santa's Reindeer Games to students at Cooper Elementary School in Loganville on Wednesday. Several Archer wrestlers read Christmas books to students at Cooper Elementary.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Brady Smith, 5, listens intently as his classmates ask questions of Archer High School wrestler Daniel Bullard, 15, during Bullard's reading of the book Santa's Reindeer Games to students at Cooper Elementary School in Loganville on Wednesday. Several Archer wrestlers read Christmas books to students at Cooper Elementary.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Zach Wright, 18, a wrestler from Archer High School, reads the Christmas book Santa's Reindeer Games to kindergarten students at Cooper Elementary School in Loganville on Wednesday. Students at front right are Madison Heaton and Frank Wajule.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Archer High School varsity wrestler and state champion in the 195 pound weight class Ernest Alexander, 17, laughs while reading the Christmas book Ginger Bread Baby to students at Cooper Elementary School in Loganville on Wednesday. Alexander and several of his teammates read to the children at Cooper Elementary.

LOGANVILLE -- Judging from the look on his face, you'd have thought five-year-old Brady Smith got a visit from Santa Claus himself.

Archer High School wrestlers who dropped by Cooper Elementary on Wednesday brought happiness to hundreds of students, including Smith, who listened to the athletes read Christmas books.

The boy said he enjoyed hearing 15-year-old wrestler Daniel Bullard read the book, "Santa's Reindeer Games." Smith said when he grows up he wants to be a wrestler, too. "I would like that," Smith said.

Coach Tom Beuglas said the wrestlers had been "trying to think of something to spread holiday cheer ... and an activity where people could see our team in a different light, other than just as wrestlers."

The idea, Beuglas said, came from his son, Tommy, who happens to be a fourth-grader at Cooper Elementary.

"My son, he likes Ernest (Alexander) a lot. He said, 'Why don't you have Ernest come read to our class?' It made me think, 'Well, maybe I can bring a whole bunch of them to Cooper,'" Beuglas said.

Alexander, a state wrestling champion and running back for the football team, was a favorite among students on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old read "Gingerbread Baby" to a group of fourth-grade students.

Student Kayden Campbell, 10, asked Alexander which he liked better, football or wrestling.

"It depends on whether it's wrestling season or football season," Alexander quipped.

The athlete said he thinks it's "cool to give back to the community, and get the little kids excited about wrestling and help them with reading."

Karen Alligood, a counselor at Cooper Elementary, said when older kids like Alexander visit young students, "They get real excited. Their eyes light up, and they want to ask a lot of questions. They're just thrilled, because here are these big kids taking time out of their day to spend time with them."

Alligood said the arrangement came about after Beuglas contacted Cooper Elementary staff. "He asked if his wrestlers could come read to students, and of course we said 'yes,' because they are good role models for our students."

Beuglas said such activities "help build up the community."

He said that as the school prepares to host the Gwinnett County wrestling tournament this weekend, he "figured a little good karma couldn't hurt." The coach laughed.

Regardless of how the team fares in the tournament, the Archer wrestlers are winners in five-year-old Smith's book.

"I want to be like them one day," the boy said. "I want to win wrestling matches."