Another area championship for Troup

Published 4:36 pm Sunday, January 28, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

Another day, another area championship for the Troup High wrestling team.

A year ago, Troup won the Area 5-AAAA duals, as well as the traditional area tournament.

With Saturday’s dominant performance in the traditional area tournament, Troup completed the area sweep for the second consecutive season.

It was all Troup on Saturday.

Of Troup’s 13 wrestlers, eight of them won individual championships, three of them placed second, and one was third.

Each of those 12 wrestlers qualified for the Class AAAA sectional that will be held at Woodward Academy on Friday and Saturday.

The top eight finishers in each weight class will advance to the state finals next week in Macon.

As satisfying as it was to win another area title, there is still a lot of work left to do as the Tigers look to finish strong.

“It’s another stage in the process of getting to your final destination,” Troup head coach Craig Garner said.

Troup was about as dominant as it could be on Saturday.

There were 14 championship matches, and Troup was represented in 11 of them.

Troup’s individual champions were Pearson Strickland (113 pounds), Trevor Upchurch (126 pounds), Brantly Robinson (132 pounds), Chase Seals (145 pounds), Scott Hicks (152 pounds), Byron Butts (195 pounds), Michael Irvin (220 pounds) and Colby Harry (285 pounds).

Finishing second for Troup were Darious Hanson (120 pounds), Cade Garner (138 pounds) and Quenton Kersey (170 pounds), and Graham Finlay (160 pounds) placed third.

Among that group are six seniors who have helped revive a program that had been struggling a bit before their arrival.

The seniors are Seals, Hicks, Butts, Upchurch, Robinson and Kersey, and five of those wrestlers finished first on Saturday, and one of them was second.

For Seals, winning area titles is nothing new.

He’s won area championships four consecutive years, and now he’ll look to bring home a state title.

Seals came close a year ago, reaching the state-championship match before finishing second.

“I’m really looking forward to a lot of tough competition and some good matchups,” Seals said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to come back with some hardware.”

Seals has been nearly untouchable this season, posting a 41-2 record, and he won all three of his matches by pin on Saturday.

In the championship match, Seals beat Roy Tracy of Cedartown.

Another dominant Troup wrestler is Hicks, who is 41-2 after steam-rolling both of his opponents on Saturday.

In the championship match, Hicks made quick work of Kevin Vicente of Cedartown.

While happy to walk away with the first-place medal, the matches that mean the most to Hicks are the ones coming up the next two weeks.

Hicks finished third at state last season, and he’ll be one of the favorites at 152 pounds this year.

“It’s business,” Hicks said of his approach to the area tournament. “It’s one of those things where it’s kind of expected. There’s a certain level of performance that’s expected of you if you’re going to win a state title.”

It was, nonetheless, a productive day.

“It’s fun winning a match, winning a tournament, and it was a good day, with good mat time,” Hicks said.

Another Troup wrestler with lofty expectations is Butts, who finished fourth at state last year and is 35-3 this season after winning his second area title.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Butts said. “It’s a good feeling, something to help you going to sectional. You go with your head held high, and you’re ready to compete.”

Butts did have his hands full with LaGrange’s Dexter Fitzpatrick in the championship match at 195 pounds. It was tied 1-1 when Butts got a takedown with less than five seconds remaining to win 3-1.

“Coach just told me to be safe,” Butts said. “I took a lot of low-risk shots. I just wanted to stay close, not make any mistakes.”

Robinson finished sixth at state last year, and he appears poised to make another strong run this season.

With his two wins on Saturday, Robinson is 40-8, and he’ll look to keep the momentum going in the state sectional.

“That’s always a goal, to finish in first place in every tournament I go to,” Robinson said. “(Winning at area gets) a good seed at sectional, and if I do well there I’ll get a good seed at state.”

Troup’s first wrestler in the finals was Strickland, and he beat Zane Simmons of Central-Carroll 11-3 in the 120-pound finals.

“I wanted to get the momentum going, and hopefully we could keep that going throughout,” said Strickland, who won the 106-pound area title last year.

Troup’s second championship was won by Upchurch, whose 2016-2017 season was cut short by a shoulder injury.

Upchurch is at full strength now, and he added to his sensational season by rolling to the 126-pound title on Saturday.

Upchurch pinned Cedartown’s Thomas Zenga in the championship match.

Irvin, one of Troup’s talented underclassmen, beat Central-Carroll’s Jason Konoval 11-5 to win the 220-pound championship.

At 285 pounds, Harry easily won both of his matches, and he pinned Central-Carroll’s Dakota Ison in the finals.

Hanson reached the championship match at 120 pounds before losing to CJ Shadinger of Central-Carroll.

Also making it to the title match was Garner, who fell to LaGrange’s Cade Garner, and Kersey lost to Central’s Sam Conerly in the 170-pound championship match.

Finlay is headed to the state sectional after finishing third at 160 pounds.

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