State time for wrestlers

Published 2:10 am Friday, February 2, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

It’s his final go-around.

Lane Oliver has been an ultra-successful wrestler for the LaGrange Grangers the past two years, and he’s hoping to go out with a flourish.

Oliver, along with eight of his LaGrange High teammates, will be on the mat today for the Class AAAA state sectional at Woodward Academy.

Troup, meanwhile, will have 12 wrestlers in the state sectional after winning the area championship on Saturday.

The top eight finishers in weight 16-person weight class will qualify for the state finals next week in Macon.

Callaway will have six wrestlers in the Class AA state sectional in Lyons, and the top four finishers in each weight class will move on to the state finals.

Oliver was one of three LaGrange wrestlers who won an area championship last weekend.

Oliver has worked hard to stay in the 106-pound weight class this season, and that diligence has paid major dividends, and he believes he has a great chance to end up on the awards podium in Macon.

The top six finishers in each weight class in the state finals will place and earn a medal.

“I feel like I can end up where I want to be,” Oliver said. “I know I have a shot at it. I know I’ll keep going and keep pushing.”

At the start of the season Oliver was wrestling in the 113-pound division, and once he lost enough weight to compete at 106 pounds, that’s where he has remained.

“Coming into the season, I was around 119, and it wasn’t that bad, mainly because I didn’t take a dramatic cut,” Oliver said. “I could have lost 10 pounds in a day, but I didn’t do that. I took it real slow and wrestled 113 for a little while, and got down to 107.9 for one practice. I got there, and I said I’ll just stay there.”

Oliver has two younger brothers on the team, sophomores Wyatt and Walter, and they’re twins.

Those three have had plenty of tussles over the years, and Oliver said “it’s intense.”

“We get after it,” Oliver said. “They’ll get me sometimes, and I’ll get them sometimes. Honestly, they’re getting bigger than me.”

After high school, Oliver will be joining the United States Navy, and he’ll leave for boot camp in July.

“I’m really excited about it, too,” Oliver said.

First things first.

Oliver has some work left to do as a high-school wrestler, and he’d love to be the last man standing at the state finals.

“I really want the gold, and I can see myself getting it if I push myself,” he said.

LaGrange’s other two area champions are John Arthur (160 pounds) and Cole Everett (138 pounds), and six other team members also earned a spot in the state sectional.

Matt Callaway (132 pounds) and Dexter Fitzpatrick (195 pounds) finished second, and Mason McPeters (113 pounds), Jacob Anderson (145 pounds), Joseph Bozeman (182 pounds) and Charles Ray (285 pounds) were third.

Oliver, Arthur and Everett are seniors, and the other six sectional qualifiers are underclassmen.

“We’ve got a shot,” LaGrange coach Scooter Weathers said. “I’ve looked at the brackets, and the brackets look good. We’ve got some good draws. Now, like I tell them it’s about the individual. The state duals are over. Now it’s how far do I want to go?”

Troup will be well-represented at Woodward Academy after its dominant performance at the area tournament.

There wasn’t much celebrating going on after Troup rolled to the area title after winning eight individual championships.

For Troup’s wrestlers, it’s all about succeeding at state, and the area tournament is just another step.

“They understand it’s a process, and they understand each stage pretty thoroughly,” Troup head coach Craig Garner said.

The Tigers finished fourth in the Class AAAA state duals in January, and they should have a great chance to match or surpass that result in the traditional state tournament.

Every team is chasing Jefferson, which has won every possible team state championship for more than 15 years.

Troup figures to be one of the teams that can push Jefferson, with so many of its wrestlers capable of placing at state.

Among Troup’s sectional participants are four wrestlers who placed at state last season.

That group includes senior Chase Seals, who finished second at state last year and has only dropped one match this season. Seals has won four consecutive area championships.

“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.”

Scott Hicks was third at state last season, Byron Butts was fourth, and Brantly Robinson finished sixth.

Robinson (132 pounds), Seals (145 pounds), Hicks (152 pounds) and Butts (195 pounds) each won individual titles at the area tournament, as did Pearson Strickland (113 pounds), Trevor Upchurch (126 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.

Callaway’s state-sectional contingent is led by senior Justin Kiss, who is looking to place at state for the third time. Kiss was a state placer as a freshman and a sophomore before taking his junior year off.

Kiss has been nearly untouchable this season, dropping just one match, and that came in the early going when he was wrestling up a weight class.

Kiss won his third area title last weekend, Laquize Gilbert, Matthew Wingate and Jakwan Nunley were second in their weight classes, and Austin Thomas finished fourth.