The Albany Herald’s 2011-12 Player of the Year for wrestling, Lee County’s Rashaud Anthony, front row, left, smiles after signing with Darton on Thursday in Leesburg. Anthony is joined by, back row, from left, assistant coach Rocky Ledford and head coach Tom Matheny and Darton head coach Chris Fleeger. (email@example.com)
LEESBURG — There’s nothing like being first.
That’s where Rashaud Anthony was Thursday afternoon, breaking down the door at Lee County, where he became the first wrestler in the school’s program to sign a scholarship.
He’s going to Darton.
“It’s the best place for me,’’ said Anthony, who was named The Herald’s Player of the Year in wrestling just two weeks ago after his remarkable, record-setting senior season for the Trojans. “It feels good to be the first, but it’s still hard to believe I’m the first wrestler from Lee County to get a scholarship. We’ve had so many good wrestlers here. It’s an honor.’’
Anthony leaves Lee County as the all-time leader in career wins (165) and wins in one season (56). He’s third in career pins (91) and third in pins in one season (31).
Four years ago, Anthony, who finished second in the Class AAAA state tournament at 113 pounds last month, would have never thought he would be going to college on a wrestling scholarship. He was walking down the hall at Lee County High as a freshman when assistant wrestling coach Rocky Ledford asked him if he ever thought about wrestling.
“I was afraid,’’ said Anthony, who went on to become a terror on the mat. “I thought wrestling was for big guys. I would have never thought it was possible for me to get a scholarship.’’
Anthony is a Mighty Mouse type — built like a rock with a passion for the sport. He earned the nickname “Drip” from his teammates for being so small, and earned everyone’s respect for working so hard.
“He wasn’t big enough to be a drop, so we called him ‘Drip,’ ’’ said Lee County wrestling coach Tom Matheny, who has helped turn the Lee County program into a powerhouse. “Although he has very small shoes, he left big shoes to fill.’’
Matheny admires Anthony’s attitude and his love and passion for wrestling.
“He’s a gym rat. He just loves the sport. He’s the hardest working wrestler I’ve ever been around,’’ he said.
Matheny was ecstatic that Anthony chose Darton, where new coach Chris Fleegler has ignited the program.
“He’s not going to Darton because it’s close. It’s because of the coach there,’’ Matheny said. “Chris Fleegler is one of the finest technicians I’ve ever seen.’’
Fleegler took over the program this past season, and Anthony is the first wrestler to sign with Darton this spring. Fleegler, who attended Anthony’s signing Thursday, said there was no doubt that Anthony could advance to a four-year school after two years at Darton.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “When you get to college, the strength and the speed evens out, and the difference is the work ethic. He has already got the work ethic of a college wrestler.
“Obviously, he is a tremendous athlete, finishing second in the state put him on the radar of a lot of colleges. He is strong athletically, academically and socially. We don‘t have to worry about him. He will do all the right things. He’s got a great work ethic. He never quits. He’s the first one there when the door opens and the last to leave.’’
Anthony, who is leaning toward a career in engineering, has high hopes for the next two years.
“I really like Darton,’’ he said. “I like the coach and they all make me feel like they are a family there. I’m going there hoping to nail down a national title — maybe two.’’