The Carrollton High School wrestling team is taking 11 grapplers on Friday and Saturday to Jasper, with all of them having finished first or second at area last weekend. That kind of success builds momentum, especially at this point in the schedule.
"It's exciting. We brought 12 guys to area and we're heading out with 11 to sectionals and all 11 of them were in the finals. Definitely feel really good about what we accomplished last week and it builds excitement towards sectionals this weekend and our ultimate goal of the state tournament the final weekend," the first-year Trojan coach said.
Jake Adcock and Taylor Lujan took the first steps to picking up their second straight state title in as many tries with area titles last weekend, along with Rhett Hembree (132), Turner Martin (145), Dan Harris (160) and Travis Joyce (182). At 106 pounds, Bryan Johnson, joined by Christian Gutierrez (113), Chris Foster (120), Murphy Hagen (195) and Cole Glommen (hwy), advanced with second-place area finishes.
After competing at the Area 5-AAAA meet last week, the Trojans will be joined by Areas 1, 6 and 7, which Wilman believes to be the class of the state with Gilmer and Alexander competing, along with Carrollton. At this point, the Trojan coach has those three squads at the top of his list to take home the state title.
Even with top competition and more on the line this weekend, Wilman wants his team to go in with the same mindset — win and win big.
"Our philosophy, and we talked about it [Wednesday], last week we went into area with the mindset that we wanted to put as many points on the board as we could and really wrestle offensively, open up, not win any tight matches and try to dominate our opponent from start to finish and we did that in almost every bout," Wilman said.
"Going into this weekend, it's the exact same philosophy. Half the kids that make the state tournament are coming out of our side. There's a good chance we're going to see these guys again next weekend. I told our guys, 'Hey, we're going to go out, be super offensive, be aggressive, try and put points on the board and really see where we stand.' Then we can make the adjustments as we need to the following weekend."
The Trojans are led this year by a core of four seniors that will be making the trip in Foster, Martin, Harris and Joyce. Wilman has pointed to that leadership as helping the team get to where it is right now.
"We've got four seniors in the lineup and, in a good way, their leadership is really paying off this time of year. I think our schedule throughout the year has prepared us for this part of the year where we're heading into our qualifier for the state tournament and I think we've gone places that prepare us to be at ease and confident in this tournament because we've gone up against strong competition and we've done well there," Wilman said.
Along with the senior leadership, the Trojans also have underclassmen like Adcock and Lujan that are state champions while Hembree has been a state-placer in his first two years. That adds experience and a quality to the Carrollton wrestling room that not a lot of programs in the state have right now.
"It's huge. We've talked about this all year long. We've got some younger guys in Bryan Johnson at 106 and Christian Gutierrez, who's a freshman, at 113. Neither of those guys have placed at the state tournament. Bryan's a junior and returning state qualifier, Christian's a freshman. Chris Foster is a senior 120-pounder who's been to the state tournament before. I told all of them, 'You've got to work out with returning state champ in Jake Adcock, multiple state-placer Rhett Hembree and they're doing the same work and same workouts.' Everything we ask of Jake and Rhett and Taylor and Dan Harris, all those guys that have placed all our younger guys, and even the older guys that haven't placed yet, they've put forth that same work ethic and have wrestled that same competition schedule," Wilman said.
And heading into the biggest individual tournament so far this season, the expectations are high.
"I think that we'll be bringing all 11 to the state tournament — I really do. We've got a solid squad there and going to sectionals you're talking about 16-man brackets, eight guys move on. I have complete confidence that all 11 of our guys are definitely in the top eight in their bracket this weekend and should be moving on to the state tournament. I think there's a couple of guys that will be overachieving that are probably expected to be placing low this weekend that will come out and achieve higher than what other people are thinking and make it to the state tournament in good fashion," Wilman said.
"Last week we had 11 in the finals. I think we can definitely be very close to putting eight, nine, 10 in the finals this weekend with the quality of kids we have in this program."