High hopes for Troup wrestlers

Published 10:33 am Thursday, November 23, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry


There was a time, not too many years ago, when the Troup wrestling program was among the best in the state.

When the Tigers walked onto the mat, the question wasn’t if they’d win, but rather how dominant they would be.

The Tigers may not yet be back to those heady days when they were winning state championships year after year, but the program is fine shape at the moment.

Troup finished fourth in the state duals during the 2016-2017 season, and four of its wrestlers placed sixth or higher at the state meet.

Nearly every wrestler who helped the Tigers achieve that success last season are back, including the state placers.

It’s a senior-heavy team, and 12 men who were regulars in the lineup last season are back for another go-around.

“It could be a very special group, but a lot’s got to happen

between now and then,” said Craig Garner, Troup’s head coach. “We’ve got a lot of development that’s got to take place. A lot of people have got to get to their final weight classes. It all the pieces were to fall into place, it could be a pretty special group.”

Among the returnees is Chase Seals, who finished second in the state last season.

Also back is Scott Hicks, who was third in the state last season.

Byron Butts and Brantly Robinson were fourth and sixth, respectively, at the state meet last season.

Many of the team members have been wrestling together for four seasons at Troup, and even longer in some cases.

“These are the same guys, most of them, that have been wrestling together since the sixth grade,” said Hicks, who will look to improve upon his third-place finish at state. “And we’ve all been wrestling together for the last four years. And all of our coaches have taught us in a way that’s foundational. We’re building every single year, and everything we do is a lesson.”

Garner, with the help of his brother Drew Garner, took over the program before the 2013-2014 season.

The program had gone through a number of coaches over the previous decade and was struggling to find consistency, and Garner wanted to help get things rolling again.

It all came together last season, with Troup enjoying its best season since it was winning state championships under coach Dariel Daniel.

“We have steadily improved the last three years, and we expect to improve this year,” Garner said. “We expect to improve upon the fourth-place finish in the state duals.”

Garner said the key to long-term success is focusing on getting better every day in practice.

“It’s a process,” Garner said. “Our philosophy this year is to focus on our match, focus on the little things, focus on our technique. We’re not focusing so much on the outcome, as in the process, and be very detail-oriented.”

Hicks said he and his teammates are doing their best to buy into that philosophy.

“It’s weekend to weekend right now, practice to practice,” Hicks said. “We have to get better every single day, focus on what we’re doing every moment, because that hard work’s going to pay off.”

Hicks is one of the wrestlers whose commitment to getting better in the practice room has paid dividends.

He is coming off his best season that ended with the third-place finish at state.

Now, he’s aiming for a state title.

“It’s something that, since my freshman year when I first started, that I’ve looked forward to,” Hicks said. “As a freshman, it’s what you started working toward. Now it’s within my grasp. It’s attainable. And that’s so cool to think about. Me and coach (Carson) Dempsey were talking the other day, and we both said we got chill bumps thinking about this, thinking about the possibilities we have.”

Knowing this is his last season, Hicks is enjoying every step of the process, and that includes the hours each day spent in the practice room.

“I look forward to coming to practice every single day,” Hicks said. “I want to be at practice every single day. Because this is my last ride.”

Seals came within one victory of claiming a state championship last season, and he’s look to take the next step.

Butts and Robinson will also look to build on their successful seasons, and a number of other veterans are hoping to find their way onto the awards podium at state.

Darius Hanson, Trevor Upchurch, Cade Garner, Colby Harry, Quenton Kersey, Gavin Wood, Pearson Strickland and Colby Harry are among Troup’s other wrestlers who have high expectations this season.