Seniors lead way for Troup
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Troup High wrestling room has a different feel to it.
It looks the same, and the banners listing the program’s many accomplishments still hang on the wall.
While the room’s physical dimensions remain the same, the men who are spending time in it are different this season.
The 2017-2018 team was a senior-laden one, so many of the wrestlers who helped that squad accomplish so much have moved on.
There are also a new group of coaches leading the way, with Tripp Busby having taken over the program following the departure of Craig Garner.
It’s not all new faces, though.
Among the returning wrestlers are seniors Darious Hanson, Pearson Strickland and Colby Harry, each of whom placed at the state meet last season.
Those three men are back to lead the team this season, and they each placed at the Chattahoochee River Wrestling Association tournament that was held last weekend in Carrollton.
Also placing for Troup at the CRWA tournament was another returning wrestler, Mason Lumpkin.
A year ago, those wrestlers helped Troup finish fourth in the state duals, and third in the traditional state meet.
It was Troup’s best finish at state in more than 15 years, and leading the way were a large group of seniors who had been together for four years.
Now, it’s up to the returnees to help keep the good times rolling, and Strickland is aware of his role as one of the team’s veterans.
“We’ve had a lot of responsibility put on us this year, from all the seniors graduating, and new coaches moving in,” said Strickland, who finished fifth in the state at 113 pounds last season. “We’re just taking it day by day, and teaching them what we know.”
Hanson, who placed fourth at last season’s state meet, said “it’s like having a new team. It’s a little difficult, but it’s also kind of fun.”
At the CRWA tournament in Carrollton, Hanson and Strickland were number two seeds, but they both walked away with a championship.
Hanson took top honors at 138 pounds, and Strickland captured the individual title at 126 pounds.
Harry, who had been wrestling for less than a week following the conclusion of football season, reached the championship match at 285 pounds before falling short, and Lumpkin was fifth at 132 pounds.
Troup also had two placers in the junior-varsity portion of the event.
Gabe Hubbard was second at 285 pounds, and Joshua Tunnell placed sixth at 132 pounds.
For Strickland, the win in the championship match was particularly satisfying since he beat someone he lost to a few seasons ago.
“I knew I was going to face the kid that put me out of state my sophomore year, so I saw him in the finals and beat him,” Strickland said. “That was kind of a revenge match.”
Even better, Strickland’s opponent in the finals was from Central-Carroll, the host school.
“I beat him in his home gym, so that was a good match for me,” Strickland said. “That was really important.”
Hanson, who had never faced his finals opponent before, had little doubt he’d walk away with the first-place medal.
“I was confident going out there that I was going to score and keep scoring,” Hanson said.
Hanson and Strickland both made serious runs at a state title last season, and they’re hoping to take the next step and win it all as seniors.
At last season’s state meet, Strickland lost his second match, but he overcame that disappointment to earn a fifth-place finish.
Strickland remembers watching two of his teammates wrestle for a championship, and he’d love to be on that stage when the state tournament rolls around in February.
“It gives you chills just thinking about it,” Strickland said.
Hanson made it to the semifinals at last season’s state meet, meaning he was one victory away from wrestling in the championship match.
Hanson lost in the semifinals, though, and he dropped his next match as well to finish fourth.
“To me, I feel like I should have been in the finals,” Hanson said. “I made it to the semis and I lost, but I feel like it put a lot of weight on my shoulders. I just want to get there again.”
Hanson has no doubt he has what it takes to take the next step and win it all this season.
“I’ve been waiting on this moment since I was in the sixth grade,” Hanson said. “I feel like I’ve got all the potential in the world. I’ve just got to do it.”
Harry, Troup’s other returning state placer, lost his first match, but he won three in a row after that to guarantee himself a spot on the podium, and he finished sixth.
Whatever happens in the next few months, the end is in sight for the seniors, and Hanson said he’s going to enjoy every day.
“I don’t think it about it right now. I’m just having fun. I just like wrestling. If you don’t love it, you’re not going to enjoy it. It’s just fun for me. I just enjoy being out here with these guys, and just having fun going to tournaments, and wrestling, laughing, just talking to the coaches. It’s fun.”