Wrestling season heating up
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a new-look Troup wrestling team this season, and not just on the mat.
While many of the wrestlers who helped Troup earn top-five finishes in both state wrestling meets last season have graduated, the team has a new head coach as well.
Tripp Busby, who has been a member of the football coaching staff the past three seasons, has stepped in to take over the wrestling program following the departure of Craig Garner.
While Busby is new to the team, he already knows many of the wrestlers, which has helped make the transition a smooth one.
“I’ve been here three years. That really helps,” Busby said. “That relationship is already there. Now these guys that haven’t played football, I’m having to form a relationship, but with the guys that I’ve been on the football field with for years, it helps that I’ve got that relationship already there. They know what’s expected.”
The Tigers have participated in three dual-format events in the first few weeks of the season, and they’ll compete in their first traditional-format tournament this weekend.
Troup, along with Callaway and LaGrange, will take part in the Chattahoochee River Wrestling Association tournament today and Saturday at Central-Carroll High.
Troup is coming off a phenomenal season that included a fourth-place finish at the state duals, and a third-place showing at the traditional state tournament.
Troup had seven placers at the traditional state tournament, including two men who lost in the championship match.
Four of those wrestlers, including state runner-ups Chase Seals and Byron Butts, have graduated.
Three state placers have returned, though, including Darious Hanson, who finished fourth at the state tournament in Macon.
Also returning are Pearson Strickland and Colby Harry, who had fifth and sixth-place finishes, respectively, at state.
Senior Gabe Hubbard, who was unable to wrestle last year while recovering from shoulder surgery, should bolster the lineup, and Busby said there are a handful of first-time wrestlers giving the sport a try.
“I’ve got 10 seniors, but only five of them have wrestled,” Busby said. “We’ve got some football players out that wanted to contribute.”
Joining Troup in the CRWA tournament will be LaGrange, which is led by veteran coach Scooter Weathers.
Like Troup, the LaGrange lineup has a lot of new faces this season.
“It’s going to be the youngest team we’ve ever had,” Weathers said.
There are some talented veterans on the team, including Matt Callaway, a state placer last season as a sophomore.
Another key returnee is Colin Cavender, who Weathers said “has gotten unbelievably better.”
Mason McPeters has been one of the standouts in the early going with an unbeaten record, and Jackson Bozeman was a regular member of the lineup last season.
LaGrange has done well early in the season, posting winning records in dual-format tournaments at Alexander and Central-Carroll while winning the Granger Duals with a 3-0 record.
“I’m thoroughly pleased,” Weathers said. “We’re getting better every time we get on the mat.”
Weathers said the wrestlers are doing a nice job of motivating themselves during the sometimes grueling practice sessions.
“We’ve got to work, and push ourselves. And they do,” Weathers said. “They attack each other, they push each other.”
This will be Callaway’s first competition of the season.
Many of the team members have just made the transition to wrestling with the conclusion of football season last week.
“Over half the team, they’ve been practicing for four days,” said Jason Boatman, Callaway’s head coach. “You just have to dive in, and get back to work the best you can.”
Among the top returnees for Callaway are Laquize Gilbert, Anthony Elliott, Jakwon Nunley and Ladarius Williams. Gilbert, Nunley and Williams were among the six Callaway wrestlers who qualified for the state sectional last season.