State time for Callaway
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s state time for the Callaway Cavaliers.
After finishing second in last weekend’s area tournament, Callaway High’s wrestling team will participate in the Class AA state duals in Macon.
First up for Callaway will be a showdown with Dodge County on Thursday at 3:45 p.m.
If Callaway beats Dodge County, it will face Social Circle later on Thursday.
If Callaway loses to Dodge County, its next match in the double-elimination tournament will be on Friday.
The tournament concludes on Saturday.
Everything the Cavaliers have been doing has been leading up to this point, and head coach Jason Boatman is proud of the way every wrestler has fully committed to the team.
“You try to build the mentality of the team early on,” Boatman said. “That’s something we tried to do, really years ago, and build it that way. Go hard, and get them to the third (period), and just leave it all out there. That’s the message we’ve had for a long time, and they’ve bought into that. They’ve done an amazing job of buying in. The practices are really tough, and they’ve conditioned really hard, and they’ve bought in, and they’ve been able to win matches late when they’ve needed to and get it done.”
Some of the wrestlers have been in the practice room since September, while others didn’t join the team until a little more than a month ago.
Many of Callaway’s top wrestlers are also football players, and their season didn’t end until the semifinals of the state playoffs in December.
When Callaway’s football season ended with a loss to Brooks County, Boatman gave the players making the transition to wrestling the option to take some time off.
The Monday following the Brooks County game, though, the football players were in the wrestling room.
“Friday night after Brooks, I went up to Ladarrius (Williams) and said you don’t have to come back Monday if you don’t want to,” Boatman said. “He said I’ll be there Monday, and they were there Monday. The leaders of the team all said we’ll be there Monday.”
Two of Callaway’s two-sport standouts, Anthony Elliott and LaQuize Gilbert, were state placers last season.
Those two, along with Williams and the other veteran wrestlers, helped Callaway make history last season by reaching the state duals for the first time.
Gilbert, who finished fourth in the state tournament last season, is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team continue to succeed.
For Gilbert, that involves not only working on his own skills, but helping his less experienced teammates.
“We’re a family,” Gilbert said. “If I see they need to work on a move, I go over there and talk to him, and tell him what they need to fix and how to do it.”
Gilbert is hoping all of the effort the wrestlers have been putting in will pay dividends over the next few days.
“The goal is to win it all,” Gilbert said. “That’s what we’re working hard for.”
First up will be Thursday’s matchup with Dodge County, and Boatman is looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
“I’ve known Dodge County coach (J.D.) Carter a long time, and he’s a great guy, and a great coach,” Boatman said. “His teams are always really well-coached, and it’s going to be tough. They’re fired up to be there. They’re in that region with Spencer and Lamar, so they’ve had to fight with those two for a long time, and they’re going this year, so they’re going to be excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun, because we have a lot of respect for those guys.”
Boatman isn’t sure what the lineup will look like for the Dodge County match, or for any of the subsequent matches.
“It’s all about matchups,” Boatman said. “That’s why it’s kind of fascinating when you get to the tournament, because every team is different.”
Izaiyah Gray, Cameron Breed, Ladarrius Williams, Desmond Nunley, Bryson Brewer, Colton Clines, Caleb Woody, Ethan Mill, Antwan Elliott, Anthony Elliott, LaQuize Gilbert, Troy Helton, Daniel Shuman, Carson Woods