When Tom Beuglas was starting the Archer wrestling program three years ago, he walked the halls searching for freshmen who looked athletic.
He would pull kids to the side and ask them to join the team. He did the same thing with the freshman football team and in his classroom.
That's where he found Ernest Alexander.
At 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, Alexander certainly passes the eye test of an athlete with his chiseled frame.
"You look at him and he looks pretty good. He was probably the best looking ninth-grader we had," Beuglas said. "We said 'Hey, as athletic as you are, you can be pretty good at this.'"
Three years later, it turns out Beuglas was right.
Alexander is rated one of the top wrestlers in the 195-pound weight class this season. The junior won the Gwinnett County championship and holds a 56-4 record. If he continues that success he could become the three-year program's first state champion.
"He's probably one of the most athletic kids in the state in his weight class, if not the most," Beuglas said. "He's got that going for him."
Alexander's quick rise to success is impressive considering he never wrestled before he got to high school. He grew up playing football and is a standout running back/linebacker on the football team.
When he told his parents he wanted to wrestle, it took some convincing, especially with his mother.
"She thought it was kind of on the weird side," Alexander said. "I was like mom, it's not WWE."
Alexander won the ninth-grade county tournament and was runner-up in the JV tourney.
As a sophomore, he placed sixth at the state tournament, but had his breakout year this season.
"It was funny, during the football season his mom came up and said you were right," Beuglas said. "You said he was going to be good at this and I didn't believe you. He's turned out to be pretty good."
Alexander has won three of five tournaments he's competed in this season. His only losses have been to the defending state champion from Alabama twice, when he wrestled up a weight class at the state duals against state champion Camden County and in Sham Slam two weeks ago.
"The more I think about it, I wish I started (wrestling) earlier and I could have been like (state champions) Chip Ness or Sean Russell," Alexander said.
Ness wrestles for Buford and Russell for Collins Hill. Both were state champs as freshmen last year.
Alexander has been a main cog in leading Archer's rise to success. The team won the Area 8-AAAAA duals title and placed third at the state meet.
"I just like to get my work done and get out," Alexander said. "I like to get out and wrestle."
Alexander does everything Beuglas ask of his wrestlers on and off the mat. He maintains a 3.2 GPA. At out-of-state tournaments, he's the first one in bed. On the mat, well, he just wins.
"Ernest is probably the nicest kid on the team. We joke around. If you were mean, you'd really be something special," Beuglas said. "He's got super athletic ability, he's a great kid and a great student. I don't know how he's good at this because he doesn't have a mean bone is his body."
Alexander was one of the county's top running backs in football last year. He was 10th in the county in rushing with 891 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead the team to the state playoffs. His best game was a 204-yard, school-record five-touchdown effort against Central Gwinnett.
His success on the football field has garnered the attention of college recruiters. He has no scholarship offers yet, but has drawn interest from Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State and Navy.
Alexander won't say which sport is his favorite. He likes football during the fall and wrestling in the winter. Right now he's just focused on winning a state title.
"There's a good chance I could," Alexander said. "I hope. If I wrestle good."
THE ALEXANDER FILE
Who: Ernest Alexander
Favorite TV show: SportsCenter
Dream job: Pharmacist
Favorite sports team: Georgia Bulldogs
-- Has a record of 56-4 and 25 pins this season, including Gwinnett County title
-- Placed sixth at state tournament last year
-- Bench presses 315 pounds, squats 405 and power cleans 270
-- Runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash
-- Maintains 3.2 GPA
-- Rushed for 891 yards and 17 touchdowns last season on football team