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Former Eastside wrestler lived well on, off mat

I made a promise to myself that I would not make this a sad column about the late Trevor Bailey, who was laid to rest at Lakewood Memorial Park in Covington last Wednesday. When I was a sports writer covering high school wrestling, I had the great pleasure of covering Eastside High School as the Eagles became the first high school wrestling program in Newton County’s history to bring home two state traditional wrestling titles in consecutive seasons in two different classifications.

With that being said, I want to talk about Trevor. When I first met him it was in 2008 (my first year covering wrestling) at the South Metro Tournament. Trevor made a great first impression on me. He was very well-spoken, very polite to me, yet Trevor was extremely focused and had intensity in his eyes awaiting the next match. Trevor was at the invitational to do one thing and that is to take care of business.

Trevor couldn't stay still for one minute. He had to keep moving around, jogging in place, his head bobbing left to right, jumping up and down waiting for his next match to come up. He wanted to dominate the match, and Trevor didn't care who he wrestled. Win or lose, Trevor left it all on the mat. From what I saw after watching my first wrestling match involving Trevor, in my opinion, he indeed was a true warrior.

When I watched Trevor wrestle, he took the sport, which some people would consider too violent, and transformed it into an oasis of beauty, intelligence, strength, speed, and power. Trevor's gift made what may have looked ugly to those who didn't understand the sport of wrestling and created a marvelous work of art. Wrestling fanatics marveled and stared with pure delight while other wrestlers in Trevor's weight class hoped and prayed they would not be the lucky ones not to get on the mat with him.

But no matter how far Trevor went up in the wrestling world, his wonderful parents, Tinsley and Stephanie, always kept him grounded and reminded him that faith, education, and family come first. Trevor's upbringing made him, in essence, what a true student-athlete represents on and off the mat. Trevor was totally unselfish. He loved his former teammates and coaches at Eastside, who I called " A Band of Brothers," with total unconditional love.

Tinsley, who is also a lay coach for Eastside, was with Trevor every step of the way. Tinsley has a tremendous love for his sons and helped Trevor and his younger brother, Tyler, win their state titles. A father's love is one of the greatest gifts a young man could have. Trevor expressed it in return when he took the mat and made his father proud.

Trevor was a champion before he won the 2009 Class AAA state championship at 140 pounds or became a collegiate All-American at Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala., early this year.

Trevor walked with humility and confidence. He showed true sportsmanship whether he won or lost and displayed a first-class attitude towards everyone he met. Trevor created a legacy not only for the wrestling program at Eastside, but for other wrestlers that desired to walk in his footsteps. He created a tremendous reputation of being the best in the state by continuing to reach for excellence every single day. And Trevor did that for all of 21 years of his life.

In sports, true fans don't celebrate the imperfections of most athletes at the end of one's career or life. Yet, true sports fans celebrate the legacy of greatness an athlete leaves behind.

For those that knew, admired and loved him, Trevor left behind a legacy of greatness and accomplishments beyond measure. He was one of the best wrestlers in the state and forever will live on as a champion.

I was very blessed and happy to have known Trevor and the Bailey family. I have seen him at his best, and Trevor and the Eastside Wrestling program made my job as a sports writer more of a privilege than a chore. I was blessed even more to witness Trevor and the Eagles make history twice in a row.

True warriors never die. Trevor Rucker Bailey will forever be to me ... my immortal.

Eric McDonald is a freelance journalist who covers high school sports. Email him at ericmcdonald@journalist.com