Troup seniors ready for final go-around

Published 11:42 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

It was a moment he’ll always cherish.

During the 2017 traditional state wrestling meet, Troup’s Chase Seals made it all the way to the championship match.

Seals fell short against Hunter Bass from Mary Persons, but the fact that he was one of the final two wrestlers in his weight class still standing was a momentous accomplishment, and it’s a memory he savors.

“I’m never going to forget it,” Seals said. “I’ll hopefully tell my kids about it one day. If I ever coach, I’ll tell my athletes about it. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was a really great experience.”

Beginning today, Seals will take the first step toward what he hopes is a second consecutive appearance in the championship match.

Seals, along with 10 of his teammates, will participate in the Class AAAA state meet in Macon that will be held today through Saturday.

LaGrange will have four wrestlers in the Class AAAA state meet, while two Callaway Cavaliers will compete in Class AA.

Seals is one of four Troup wrestlers who placed at state last season.

The others are Scott Hicks (third place), Byron Butts (fifth place) and Brantly Robinson (sixth).

Those four will be joined by Trevor Upchurch and Quenton Kersey along with Darious Hanson, Michael Irvin, Pearson Strickland, Colby Harry and Cade Garner.

For six Troup wrestlers, this will be their final go-around.

Seals, Hicks, Butts, Robinson, Upchurch and Kersey are seniors, and they’ve been with the program since they were freshmen.

They’ve helped revive a program that was once one of the best in the state but had been struggling a bit before the 2014-2015 season

Seals and the other seniors have helped Troup win four consecutive area championships the past two seasons, and the team placed fourth in the state duals earlier this year.

“Just looking at it from my freshman year to this year, it’s been a long ride,” Seals said. “Nothing can tear us apart. It means a lot to see how far we’ve come, to see how we’ve come together not just as a team, but as a brotherhood, and all that we’ve overcome. It’s kind of overwhelming, and it’s going to be kind of sad to leave.”

Seals has a great chance to exit the state with a state championship.

After finishing second in the state sectional last week at 145 pounds, Seals brings a 44-3 record into the state finals.

Seals will be joined by 15 other outstanding wrestlers in his weight division, so there’s a lot of work to do.

“You have to trust the work you’ve put in, and you’ve got to know that no matter what, God’s got you,” Seals said. “You just go out there and do everything you can for him, and believe in yourself just as much as I believe in these guys. You go out there and leave it all out there.”

Butts finished second in the 195-pound division at the state sectional, and he has had a phenomenal season with a 38-4 record.

Butts, like Seals, has a legitimate opportunity to be the last man standing in his weight class.

“Honestly, I feel like the work that we’ve put in, and everything we’ve done, I have no doubt in my mind that it’s possible to win it all,” Butts said. “I hope I can.”

Butts has cherished his time at Troup, and he’s glad he’s been able to help the wrestling program become one of the state’s best.

“It’s special being the class that started it all off, rebuilding this foundation of what Troup wrestling used to be, and also it’s fun to be a part of this brotherhood that I have, and all the love that I have for these guys, and for the younger guys coming into the program,” Butts said. “I’m so proud to be able to say, I was able to restart this dynasty that Troup used to be.”

Hicks used to play football at Troup, but he has made wrestling his sole athletic endeavor, and the hard work has paid off.

Hicks has had a stellar season, and he’s 44-4 after placing fifth in the state sectional at 152 pounds.

Hicks has enjoyed his time competing alongside his friends and fellow seniors.

“These are the same guys, most of them, that have been wrestling together since the sixth grade,” Hicks said earlier this season. “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.”

Robinson, a three-sport standout at Troup, is 43-10 after finishing seventh at 132 pounds in the state sectional.

Upchurch, another one of Troup’s seniors, was second at the state sectional at 126 pounds, and he is 46-8.

Upchurch’s only loss at the sectional came to Robert Mulvany of Columbus, who has only lost once this season.

Upchurch wasn’t able to compete at state last season while he recovered from a shoulder injury, but he’s at full strength now.

Kersey brings a 48-10 record into the state finals after placing fourth at 170 pounds in the state sectional.

Strickland (113 pounds) is 44-8 this season, Hanson (120 pounds) is 48-9, Garner (138 pounds) is 23-11, Irvin (220 pounds) is 22-7, and Harry (285 pounds) is 39-8.

Among LaGrange’s remaining wrestlers are a pair of seniors, Lane Oliver (106 pounds) and John Arthur (160 pounds).

Oliver finished fifth in the state sectional to improve to 33-9, and he qualified for the state finals for the second straight year.

The other senior is John Arthur (160 pounds), who is 34-6 after placing seventh in the state sectional.

Also competing at state are Dexter Fitzpatrick (195 pounds) and Matt Callaway (132 pounds).

Fitzpatrick is 33-7 following his fifth-place showing at the state sectional, and Callaway is 36-13 after placing eighth at the sectional.

Callaway has two wrestlers competing in the Class AA state finals.

One of those wrestlers, senior Justin Kiss (113 pounds), is 31-2 after finishing second in the state sectional in Lyons.

Kiss was a state placer as a freshman and a sophomore, and he’ll be among the favorites to win the championship this year.

Another senior, Matthew Wingate (170 pounds), is 27-9 after finishing third at the state sectional.