Broncos' Cunningham eyes state wrestling title

Brookwood's Blake Cunningham won the Gwinnett County championship and is in contention to win the state title later this season.

Brookwood's Blake Cunningham won the Gwinnett County championship and is in contention to win the state title later this season.

Blake Cunningham can't tell you his favorite TV show. Favorite movie? No chance there either.

The Brookwood wrestler doesn't have time to just sit around and relax, he's too busy maintaining a high academic level and win a state championship.

"I don't watch TV. I don't have enough time," Cunningham said with a chuckle.

Cunningham is one of the top student-athletes in the county, maintaining a 3.9 GPA and earning scholar-athlete honors in football and wrestling. His work ethic in the classroom has spilled over into wrestling.

After a couple of hours of studying each night, Cunningham will go for a run to build his conditioning for wrestling. He might run for 15 minutes, he might go for an hour and a half. The extra work has paid off in making Cunningham one of the contenders for the Class AAAAAA state championship in the 285-pound weight class.

"I'm going to try to win state," Cunningham said. "I'm just going to give it my all and my best."

Cunningham has built a 29-0 record this season, which includes a title at the Gwinnett County championship.

"He makes great decisions on the mat," Brookwood head coach Chris Cicora said. "He utilizes mat strategy when he's out there. He just uses his experience and his intelligence out there to be successful."

Cunningham has wrestled since he was in third grade. When Cicora first took over the Brookwood program seven years ago, he noticed the potential in Cunningham. As a middle schooler, Cunningham competed with the Brookwood varsity during the summer.

"He was matched up against freshmen and some sophomores and he was able to handle himself out there," Cicora said.

Cunningham has been a four-year starter for Brookwood. He's qualified for the state tournament the last two years, but has not placed. Last season was his first as a heavyweight and he finished in the top 10.

"He's got a different attitude this year. He's always had the potential and talent," Cicora said. "This year there's a new attitude in the room. He's different in the room. I think he realizes this is his last opportunity in high school. I think he knows he's always had the potential, but this is his last shot."

Cunningham put more of an emphasis on getting stronger in the summer. That has helped this season, especially since he only weights 245 pounds and gives up 40 pounds in some matches.

That's why Cunningham has put so much emphasis on his conditioning. He'll feel an opponent out in the first period, wear him down in the second period and then get the win in the third.

His conditioning comes from late-night runs in the neighborhood. After practice, Cunningham goes home to eat dinner. He'll do homework for a couple of hours and then goes for a run. He may have a short run, or he may run for more than an hour.

"Whenever I slow down, I think about how I want to win state and then it goes back to me," Cunningham said.

By the time Cunningham gets back from his run, it's after 11 p.m. Sometimes he'll study for his two AP classes until 2 a.m. before going to bed.

"I just want it more," Cunningham said.

Brookwood hasn't had a state champion since Justin Hornsby in 1995. Cunningham could snap that drought. He's already beat one of his top challengers at the county tournament.

Cunningham likes to clarify he does have a social life. He likes to spend time with his girlfriend and friends on the weekend. But during the week he's dedicated to being a student-athlete with a big goal in mind.

"I'm trying to win state," Cunningham said.