Cliff Ramos officially only made his way to Hall County for five years. But the legacy he helped leave behind is still present.
At a time when high school wrestling was still a fledgling sport in most of the state, the long-time wrestling coach took over the East Hall program, and along with then-Gainesville wrestling coach Paul White, he helped create the still-annually-running Hall County Championships in 1984.
Ramos, a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, passed away on Thursday after succumbing to his two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was just 67.
“Coach Ramos was a great friend and really helped put Hall County wrestling on the map. He will be missed,” White said. “He thought it would be great if the county schools got together for one big tournament so we sat down and that’s how the Hall County Championships came to be. That one thing I think played a big role in promoting the sport and getting things rolling (in Hall County).”
Ramos came to East Hall (1980-85) from Missouri and was one of the early coaching pioneers to promote and build the sport in Georgia. He left the Vikings, where he helped develop several individual state champions, for Meadowcreek but indelibly left his mark at Collins Hill, where he built a powerhouse from scratch that won nine state championships.
“Georgia is where it is now in terms of wrestling because of guys like Coach Ramos coming into the state,” said longtime but now-retired Jefferson wrestling coach Doug Thurmond. “Coach Ramos was instrumental in helping build up the sport in this area. He was a great role model and just did an amazing job everywhere he went. We will miss him for sure. Just a tremendous person.”
According to Thurmond, Georgia is now a top five state in the country for developing wrestling talent. He said Ramos had a big hand in building that success.
"That is based on how guys finish in the major tournaments around the country. He was the first to travel out of the state to take on the top talent. He knew so much about developing wrestlers and building programs," Thurmond said. "He taught coaches and kids how do that at a time when most of the coaches were just guys that weren't necessarily wrestlers. His influence statewide was huge and is still present."
Coach Ramos, after stepping down at Collins Hill, later helped at Greater Atlanta Christian and Mountain View.
Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.