CONYERS -- With a degree in sports administration and a liking to his new hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, former Rockdale County standout wrestler Alonzo Allen never planned on returning to his alma mater to coach.
Satisfied with starting his life after college in Tennessee, the state he has called home ever since graduating from Rockdale in 2014, Allen’s plans quickly changed in mid March.
The same day he received a bid to compete in the NCAA Division 1 National Championships, representing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he also received a call from Rockdale Athletic Director Chad Suddeth, offering him a wrestling coach position.
“Getting the bid to go to nationals and then hearing from Suddeth about the job, that day was crazy for me,” Allen said. “Coach Suddeth reached out and asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that I was down and asked him what all I needed to do. I got most of that stuff out of the way after nationals.”
In the weeks that followed, Allen said it was crazy to think he would soon be returning to the place where it all started. In his four years at Rockdale, Allen was a two-time state champion, as well as an All-American.
“If you would have asked me this two years ago, I probably wouldn’t be saying the same thing that I am now,” Allen said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, to be honest. I probably would have been thinking about staying in Tennessee and trying to stay up there for the rest of my life.”
With all but one of his tests passed, Allen is set to take over as a Bulldogs coach and will teach Health and Physical Education. Before Allen could announce his decision to the returning wrestlers at Rockdale, most already knew what was happening.
“I think the thing that excites me the most is seeing all the kids happy,” Allen said. “Before I even told them about me getting the job, some of them already knew about it. You could tell that they like the idea of having a younger coach come in to help them out.”
Allen wasted little time in learning who he would soon be working with at Rockdale after texting several wrestlers.
“As soon Suddeth called me,” Allen said. “I wasn’t doing anything that day, so I went and looked up who they had coming back. I texted some of the guys asking who was coming back. I know Kaleb (Walley) and I know Ed (Pollard). I know all of the older guys, it’s just about getting to know the younger guys.”
Allen said his phone has had a steady stream of texts and calls since officially announcing his hiring.
“They’re asking me what they can do or what class they should wrestle,” Allen said. “They all have my number, so if they ever need anything, they just have to call or text me. They’re so eager now that I’m back.”
With the state of the Rockdale wrestling program in a good place, thanks to the great work of former head coach Davis Baros, who announced he was leaving at the conclusion of the 2019 season, Allen said it excites him knowing that he’s walking into a great situation.
“I’m not having to come in and remodel the program,” Allen said. “I’m actually coming into a program that knows what they’re doing. They’ve been there and know how to handle it. I’m just here to help bring their skill level up and bring their intensity up.”
As far as his game plan to further increase the talent level at Rockdale, Allen has a plan in place.
“In high school, a lot of kids forget the little details,” Allen said. “They try and do all of the cool stuff. I’m going to bring back the basics. With high school wrestling and college wrestling, there’s really not that much difference. They difference is key details. It comes down to which wrestler wants it more and that’s what I plan on bringing here.”
Now settled back into living in Conyers, the town he grew up in, Allen said this opportunity is a win-win for everyone involved, including his family and friends.
“I’m close to my parents and all of my close friends are here,” Allen said. “Now I don’t have to worry about not seeing them for months at a time or only having time to see a couple of people during a school break. I’m happy to be back.”