Historic day for Cavaliers
Published 12:40 pm Thursday, January 17, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a landmark day for the Callaway Cavaliers.
For the first time ever, Callaway High’s wrestling team will compete in the state duals, and it will be on the mat against Pepperell for its opening-round match today at 3:30 p.m. in the Macon Coliseum.
Twelve Class AA teams, the top two finishers from six different areas, will vie for the state championship over the next three days.
Callaway finished second to Bremen in Area 4-AA to earn its state berth.
“We’ve had to work really hard to get here,” Callaway head coach Jason Boatman said. “We’re going to use this as a building block, no matter how this weekend goes. Of course we want to win every time we go out there, but win or lose we need to build off it, build off this experience.”
Callaway entered the area duals as the number two seed, and it knocked off Heard County in its first match.
After losing to Bremen, Callaway had to wait to see what happened in the match between Heard County and McNair.
When Heard County beat McNair, Callaway was assured of a second-place finish, and the celebration was on.
“My favorite part was right after, and that immediate reaction,” Boatman said. “They were jumping up and down. That was probably the coolest part.”
One of the wrestlers who helped the Cavaliers reach this point is Laquize Gilbert, and he said “it’s very special” to be a part of the first Callaway team to compete in the state duals.
“To be the first team to do it in history at Callaway, it’s amazing,” Gilbert added.
Anthony Elliott, who along with Gilbert won an individual title at the Gary Silva Invitational earlier this season, believes this milestone is an indication that “everybody’s starting to get into it. Everybody’s working hard, buying into it.”
Ladarious Williams, who has had a stellar season, enjoyed being able to celebrate the state berth with his teammates.
“It’s a team dual, so you’re wrestling not for yourself, but for everybody else,” Williams said. “It felt good. We’ve been working for it all year.”
Another Cavalier who has had a successful season is senior Curmondre Bray, a football standout who decided to give wrestling a try, and now he’s part of a history-making team.
“It was amazing,” Bray said. “My first year wrestling, we made it further than any (Callaway) team.”
Boatman has enjoyed being around this group in part because of the enthusiasm of the wrestlers.
He points to Ladarious Williams as an example of that.
Williams is one of the many Callaway wrestlers who also plays football, and those men were asked to pull double-duty during the summer.
“This summer, (the football team) just got through our workout, and then we come up here (to the indoor facility,” Boatman said. “We come here for four days a week right after. The first day, Ladarious sprints to the mat and slides on it and says I’m home. It’s neat to have that. It’s the middle of the summer after we killed them in the weight room. When you get a bond like that, and you take pride in the program, that’s when it really means something.”
Boatman relies on Williams and the other veterans to provide leadership, and that’s a role Laquize Gilbert embraces.
“I try to encourage them,” Gilbert said. “I’ve got to keep them ready, and keep them motivated. I’ve got to encourage them to do better, and keep working hard. If you keep working hard, you’ll get better.”
Whatever happens in Macon, Callaway’s wrestlers still have a lot of work ahead of them.
On Tuesday, Callaway will host the county championship, with Troup and LaGrange also participating.
After competing in the Bowdon Invitational, Callaway will participate in the traditional area tournament on Feb. 2.
The top finishers in each weight class from the traditional tournament will advance to the state sectionals. The best of the best will qualify for the state finals.
Boatman believes taking part in the state duals will be beneficial to all the wrestlers.
“Nobody in this room has been to state as an individual,” Boatman said. “Just to be on that stage will be important for them.”
The same Callaway wrestlers who got it done at the area duals will be on the mat today.
That group includes Cameron Key, Corbin Browning, Ladarious Williams, Jakwan Nunley, Jayvon Nunley, Derrell Parham, Troy Hilton, Laquize Gilbert, Curmondre Bray, Anthony Elliott, Jared Nation, Austin Thomas and Lathan Patterson.