Callaway seniors set for area tournament

Published 11:14 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

It’s his final go-around, and Callaway’s Matthew Wingate hopes to make the most of it.

Wingate, along with Callaway’s other three senior wrestlers, will be in Dublin on Saturday for the Area 2-AA traditional tournament.

The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to the state sectional the following weekend.

For Wingate, this is nothing new.

He’s been to the state sectional during each of his three seasons at Callaway, and he’s a former state placer.

In previous years, Wingate knew that no matter what happened, he’d have anotherchance to compete for a state title.

Now, Wingate heads to the area tournament armed with the knowledge that no matter what happens the next few weeks, his time as a high-school wrestler is coming to an end.

“This is my last season, probably one of my last times I’ll be able to wrestle,” Wingate said. “I’ve got to go do it. If I don’t, there won’t be another chance.”

The other three Callaway seniors making the trip to East Laurens High are Brandon Belton, Jamie Sellers and Justin Kiss.

Those four seniors, along with 10 other wrestlers, will make up Callaway’s 14-man lineup.

Wingate transferred to Callaway from Troup for his sophomore season, and he’s grateful for the time he’s had at the school.

“I couldn’t ask for a better wrestling family,” Wingate said. “Everybody knows everyone, and we get along. There’s no bickering, no arguing.”

As one of the veterans on the team, Wingate has made sure to be there for his teammates, to assist them any way he can.

“I’ve been helping out the freshmen a lot, making sure they’re staying on track,” Wingate said. “If I see them messing up on a move, I’ll help them.”

Kiss, like Wingate, is a wrestling veteran, although he took his junior season off after placing at state as a freshman and a sophomore.

Kiss has had a dominant season, dropping just one match, and that’s when he was wrestling up a weight class.

“I feel very mentally prepared, and my condition is very good,” Kiss said. “My technique, we’re getting it all crisp out here in practice. We’ve just keeping everything nice at crisp.”

Kiss, who finished fifth at state as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore, said no matter what happens in the coming weeks, he’ll compete until the clock hits zero in the third period.

“I talk to my mom, and she’s somebody I really talk to,” Kiss said. “And she tells me, and my brother (Ryan Kiss) too, no matter if I’m getting beat 9-0, and you’re going into the third period, it’s never over, keep on fighting. No matter if you lose or win, keep fighting until the very last second.”

The newcomer among the seniors is Sellers, who was a standout defensive lineman on the football team.

The wrestling team was in need of someone to fill one of the upper weight classes, and Sellers decided to give it a shot.

“It’s pretty difficult,” Sellers said. “Wrestling, it’s a technique thing. There’s a lot more to it than just being stronger than somebody. You’ve got to have the skill with it.”

Sellers, who has improved and won a handful of matches during the season, said he was welcomed with open arms by his new teammates.

“It’s family around here,” Sellers said. “I came in, and they said let’s get to work.”

Belton has been a varsity wrestler since he was a freshman, and he has overcome a physical disability to have a successful career, and now he’s got a chance to compete in the area tournament and possibly qualify for state.

Belton said he’s grateful for his teammates, who have been there for him every step of the way.

“It means a lot to have them,” Belton said. “They push me every day at practice to work hard.”

It has been a successful season for the Cavaliers, in part because they were able to field a wrestler for every weight class, something the team has rarely been able to do in previous years.

First-head coach Jason Boatman said all of the wrestlers have given it their best.

“They’ve bought into the whole team aspect,” Boatman said. “Especially after Christmas, it really started coming together.”