Trojan grapplers Rhett Hembree and Taylor Lujan were selected on Sunday evening in Atlanta at the GNWA Award Show, capping off a memorable first season in charge of the Carrollton program for coach Ryan Wilman.
“It was definitely a very neat event, especially getting to go into Atlanta. The GNWA does a really fantastic job with this. It’s just a neat event. All 84 state champs across all classifications are recognized. They really put together a special evening. In addition to it, they go above and beyond recognizing those 84 and recognizing individual award-winners,” Wilman said.
“They get guys from Georgia that have had a great deal of success and they’ve named a bunch of awards after those guys. They bring those guys back and give out awards in their name. So it’s a neat experience. With Rhett and Taylor being named to the Dream Team, it really means they’re the best of the best, regardless of classification. Rhett was deemed to be the best 132-pounder in the state and Taylor was deemed to be the best 152-pounder in the state. So it’s definitely an honor and quite a neat little tidbit there.”
The duo helped lead the Trojans to a historic year on the mat, highlighted by a second-place finish at the Class AAAA state traditional tournament and a fourth-place showing at the state duals. Hembree won his first state championship at 132 pounds after finishing third last year and second as a freshman. Lujan, meanwhile, captured his second consecutive state championship, winning this year at 152 pounds, going 57-1 on the season.
And the best thing for Wilman and the Trojans is that both state champions return next season to help the squad pursue its goal of a state team championship. Individually, Lujan is gunning to leave high school as a four-time state champ and join an exclusive club of Georgia greats that have achieved the feat.
“Taylor’s a two-time state champ now and has got two more years left, obviously. You know, you win your first one and you start thinking about your second one. I think he’s at the point where he’s looking to try to cap out his career by finishing these next two years as a state champ. So, obviously, next year he’s looking to go out there and win another state championship. But I also think Taylor’s goal is to go beyond just winning a state championship. I think he’s got his sights set at the next level with some higher things than the high school rankings and winning a high school national championship and placing at these national tournaments,” Wilman said.
For Hembree, it proved to be a breakthrough season after coming so close to winning a state title in his first two seasons of high school. Wilman expects it to serve as a springboard into his senior campaign next year.
“It was really awesome for Rhett this season. He comes in as a freshman and takes second and comes back as a sophomore looking to win it and takes third. It really kind of humbled him in that experience and his junior year he really gets to follow through and see his goal come true and be a state champ. I know that was a huge weight off his shoulders,” Wilman said.
“I think for him it’s one of those things where he’ll build off this momentum and I think we’ll see a very talented Rhett Hembree next season as a guy that’s probably going to open up a lot of more offensively. He’s extremely gifted, and I think this will just only help him to become more explosive, become more dominant and really look to take charge of every match that he’s in, regardless of whether it’s here in the state of Georgia or across the country.”
Wilman now looks forward to working toward next season, but the Trojan coach was excited to see two of his stars get recognized for their efforts in 2012-13.
“So just a really neat award. I know both Rhett and Taylor were really happy to receive it. Just a good thing that really rewards their hard work,” Wilman said.