After bringing home the first state dual team trophy with a fourth-place finish at the Macon Centreplex last month, the Trojans have since turned their focus to capturing the Class AAAA crown at the GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Tournament, which begins today and runs through Saturday.
And for the Trojans’ quartet of senior qualifiers, cementing their place in program history as the first-ever wrestling team to win a state team title at Carrollton has been the hallmark of the entire campaign.
“It’s going to be a weird feeling knowing that this is the last tournament and that this is the last practice. But we’re excited about it. Having the chance for a lot of us to not only win a state championship individually, but also to be the first in history to win a state championship for Carrollton, it’s definitely a legacy we’re trying to leave,” noted Trojan senior Travis Joyce, who won a sectional title at 182 pounds last Saturday.
Joyce is joined by Chris Foster (120), Turner Martin (145) and Dan Harris (160) as Carrollton seniors preparing for their final tournament, while 10 Trojans in all will be competing for both individual championships and the overall top team honor.
Rounding out the Carrollton qualifiers are Bryan Johnson (106), Jake Adcock (126), Rhett Hembree (132), Taylor Lujan (152), Murphy Hagen (195) and Cole Glommen (hvy.).
With six returning state-placers in Harris, Hembree, Lujan and Adcock, including Adcock and Lujan both winning state last year as freshmen — then Joyce took fourth as a freshman and second as a sophomore before sitting out last year with a knee injury and Martin was a state-placer while attending school in Tennessee two years ago — first-year Trojan coach Ryan Wilman inherited a talented and experienced squad this season.
Gilmer, Alexander, Locust Grove, West Laurens and Carrollton are the top contenders for the Class AAAA team title, and Wilman is confident the Trojans can put six guys in Saturday’s finals, which is more than he expects to see from the other four quad-A hopefuls. That said, the Trojan coach said the other teams could potentially have more overall placers, which could lead to an interesting race.
“We’re a very dangerous team and I feel very good that we’re not going to be wrestling for a lot of placement. I think our core group of guys are going out with one goal — and that’s to be in the state finals on Saturday night,” Wilman said. “As a coach, you couldn’t ask for anything more exciting than coaching multiple wrestlers and possibly six, seven guys in the finals. That’s exciting for us.”
It’s been a somewhat bittersweet week for the Trojan seniors, who have been wrestling together since they were itty-bitty mat scamps.
“I mean, I’ve been wrestling with these guys since we were little all the way up to now. It’s like a brotherhood, if you will. It’s been nice to be around that group of guys for that long of a time and all working for the same goal,” Harris said. “Now it’s coming to an end, but I’m glad I’ll always have the memories.”
“Our class has really been the one to set the tempo for wrestling in Carrollton growing up since we were 4 years old. Every one of us has wrestled together. It’s really a good feeling knowing that we can win it. And I feel like since we all know it’s our last time — for a bunch of us it will be our last time ever being on a mat — we’ll wrestle at a different pace than if it wasn’t our last time,” added Martin.
And with the action beginning with the opening round today at 5:30 p.m., all the practice is over. The brackets are set. Everything they’ve done up until this point has been for this weekend.
You better bet the Carrollton grapplers have all eyes on the prize.
“It’d be amazing because we’d be the first team to do it and I want to be a part of that. Just get to set history at Carrollton,” Foster said.
The squad has kept loose this week, reflecting on what’s got it here while embracing the moment and opportunity to make history.
“The big thing is there’s been eight guys on this team that have been wrestling together for the last eight, nine, 10 years. We’re cherishing that moment. These seniors realize it’s the last time they’re going to be wrestling with the underclassmen and the underclassmen’s last practice with the seniors. They want to go out with a bang. There’s definitely been that sense that this has been a long time in the works. Now we’re here, so let’s enjoy the ride,” Wilman said.