Callaway senior wrestlers lead the way

Published 11:01 pm Thursday, January 26, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – He figured he’d give it a shot.

As the 2016-2017 wrestling season approached, Callaway High senior Jason Price decided he was ready to give the sport a try, and he was welcomed with open arms by coach Josh Ghobapoor.

It has worked out well for Price, and the team.

Price has become a fixture in the lineup, and he’ll head into the Area 5-AA traditional tournament on Friday at East Laurens with an opportunity to finish in the top four in his weight class and qualify for the state sectional, which will be held the following week in Toombs County.

Price is one of four seniors on the team, and they have all played key roles on the team this season.

The other seniors are Khaliq Swift, Jamarcus White and Jason Freiberg, and all four of the upperclassmen were recognized during a ceremony before a home match last week.

Price said he’s “proud to be a part” of a program that’s on the upswing.

“I enjoy it a lot,” said Price, who is planning on enlisting in the U.S. Army after graduation. “I’d love to come back in three or four years and see this room full of people just drilling, and running, and see people so enthusiastic about the sport and ready to learn.”

Since Price had never wrestled before, there were obviously some growing pains, but he feels he is ready to deliver a strong showing at the area tournament.

“About last month, I started getting really good at it,” Price said. “I think I’ve got a good shot at getting to the sectional.”

Khaliq Swift, a veteran wrestler who has enjoyed a successful career at Callaway, got a late start on his season.

Swift was a member of the Callaway football team that reached the final four of the Class AA state playoffs, and he didn’t have his first wrestling match until less than a month ago.

“He’s done a lot in a short period of time,” Ghobadpoor said. “He didn’t get to wrestle until the Gary Silva tournament (in late December). That was his first competition.”

Swift has a stellar 10-3 record and he is a contender to bring home an area championship, although he’ll face some stiff competition on Friday.

“He’s got a tough bracket,” Ghobadpoor said. “He has two state placers ahead of him in our area. But he’s got an opportunity to go and be a state placer. He’s got a real opportunity to do that.”

Jamarcus White wrestled last year, but Ghobadpoor said he is still a relative newcomer to the sport, and that he has continued to progress in his final season.

“He’s turned it on,” Ghobadpoor said of White. “He was one match away from placing at the Bowdon Invitational. We kind of got him late, but he’ll do anything we ask him to do, and he works hard. He’s wrestled at 152 all year for us. Not because he couldn’t make weight, but that’s what worked out better for us because of the duals.”

Jason Freiberg, who was a cross-country standout during the fall, has been a key member of the lineup throughout the season, although he won’t be wrestling in the area tournament.

“He’s worked his tail off for us, and we appreciate that effort,” Ghobadpoor said.

One of the underclassmen is Jabarri Fisher, who won an individual championship at the Bowdon Invitational last weekend.

Fisher is seeded second in his weight class, and he lost to the wrestler who is seeded first earlier in the season.

“But he’s wrestling 10 times better than he was then,” Ghobadpoor said. “We feel good about him walking out with an area championship.”

Ken Wilson and Matthew Wingate are also number two seeds for Callaway, and Ghobapoor believes both men have a chance to compete for an area title.

Ghobadpoor said some talented freshmen, including Jayvon Nunley and Anthony Elliott, have an opportunity to make it through to the state sectional.

“We have several freshman wrestling at area, and that’s huge for them to get that experience and an opportunity,” Ghobapoor said.

Ghobapoor said all the hard work the wrestlers have been putting in over the past few months has a chance to pay off in the coming weeks.

“This is the most exciting time of the year,” he said. “You’re getting ready for that area tournament, and every match matters. Now it’s getting guys through, and getting state placers.

Ghobadpoor said his message on Wednesday was that while “it’s a team sport, at this point it’s on you. How far are you going to go? You’re only guaranteed an hour an 45 minutes of practice. After that, it’s on you whether you get more or not.”