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Granger wrestler makes history

By kevin eckleberry

Daily News

There have been some extraordinary wrestlers who have worn the LaGrange High singlet over the years.

It’s an esteemed group that includes men who have won state championships and have left their indelible mark on a storied program.

Coming into this season, though, no LaGrange wrestler had ever won 60 matches in a season.

The 60-win club now has a member, though, and it is Matt Callaway, who is in the midst of a remarkable senior season at LaGrange.

Callaway won twice on Tuesday night, giving him an astonishing record of 60-1 this season, and he’s won nearly every match by pin.

Before Tuesday’s matches, Callaway was recognized as part of the senior-night ceremony, and he was joined on the floor of LaGrange High’s gymnasium by his parents Gus and Mollie, his sister Mary Beth, and one of his coaches, John Rich.

LaGrange’s other senior, Austin Manning, has been unable to wrestle this season because of an injury.

For Callaway, it’s been a dream season so far, and he’s a long way from done.

Callaway and his teammates will participate in the area tournament on Saturday at LaGrange High. The top finishers advance to the state sectional the following weekend, and the state finals will be held in Macon.

No matter what happens the rest of the way, Callaway has already made history with what he’s accomplished this season, and for the duration of his time at LaGrange.

Callaway has a career record of 159-44, and he’s won the Wade Pauley Award as the team MVP the past two seasons.

Callaway’s only loss this season came in the Chattahoochee River Wrestling Association tournament in December to a wrestler he’d beaten earlier in the year.

That’s a loss that still stings since Callaway had the lofty goal of making it through a season without a loss.

“One of my goals this season was to be undefeated,” Callaway said. “I made it through about one-fourth of the season undefeated.”

It was a frustrating loss, but Callaway used it as fuel to keep him hungry for the remainder of the season.

“I realized that I just needed to work a little bit harder,” Callaway said. “If I take a day off, they’ll get ahead of me.”

Everything Callaway has done, the training, the fight to make weight, the film study, has led to this point.

Callaway could be a few weeks away from winning his second state medal, or perhaps even bringing home a championship.

“There’s always work to be done, but I feel like I’m in a really good spot,” Callaway said.

Callaway is the most experienced wrestler on the team, and while he’s laser-focused on realizing his potential, he’s also been there for his teammates, some of whom only just recently made the transition from middle school to high school.

“Not just wrestling, but I told them at the beginning of the season I’m here for anything,” Callaway said. “I’m here for anything you need to talk about. You need help with school work, I’ll try my best to help you out.”

It’s a team that is short on numbers but has still enjoyed a successful season that included a second consecutive county championship.

“Everybody works hard,” Callaway said.

When wrestling season comes to a close, Callaway will make the transition to track and field, and for the second straight season he’ll compete in the pole vault.

It’s a challenging sport, but Callaway jumped in head-first last season and did well.

“They asked me to do it, and I was like, I don’t know,” Callaway said. “My sister did it, so I figured I’d try. And I’ve done pretty good. We don’t have a pole-vault coach, so I’ve been kind of self-taught.”

Callaway has also excelled at cross country at LaGrange, and he helped the team win a pair of region championships and earn a top-10 finish at state.

Beyond what he’s done in athletics, Callaway is active in the community as a volunteer, and he’s worked at Kroger and Duracell.

After high school, Callaway will have an apprenticeship at West Georgia Tech while remaining employed with the company.