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Callaway wrestlers eager for state challenge

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

He was on the doorstep of a championship a year ago.

During the 2020 Class AA state wrestling tournament, Callaway High’s LaQuize Gilbert advanced to the state-championship match in his weight class before falling short.

Gilbert will get a chance to take the next step and win it all this week when he and 10 of his teammates compete in the Class AA state finals in Macon.

The two-day tournament, which features 24 wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes, will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Macon Coliseum.

Gilbert, who was an all-state linebacker on the Callaway football team that won a state title in December, will compete in the 170-pound weight class.

Gilbert finished second in the area tournament last week to advance to state, and he’ll focus on doing what he does well when he takes the mat in Macon.

“I’ve been working on my moves, and I’ll take shots where I’m supposed to, and just wrestle my match,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert, along with a handful of his teammates, got a late start with wrestling since football season didn’t end until Dec. 29 when Callaway beat Fitzgerald to claim the state championship.

Gilbert has been playing catch-up, and he’s in excellent form heading to Macon.

“We come in here every day and we battle, we make practice harder so the matches are easier,” Gilbert said. “We work hard every day.”

As for his goals this week, Gilbert has his eyes on the first-place medal.

“I’ve got to win the championship this year,” Gilbert said. “I came close last year.”

Since football season ended, Callaway head coach Zach Cummings said it’s been all about getting Gilbert ready for state.

“He knows where he needs to be, and it’s just been getting him on the mat getting ready to go,” Cummings said

Three Callaway wrestlers will arrive in Macon having won area championships last week.

One of the area champions is LaDarrious Williams, who won the 132-pound weight class.

Williams, who was a linebacker on the football team, finished fifth at last year’s state meet.

Williams didn’t take much time off before making the transition to wrestling, and it took him a while to get into a rhythm.

“It took me a couple of weeks,” Williams said. “I took my first loss because I came back to fast I think.”

How far Williams has come was evident last week when he captured his first area title.

“It felt good,” Williams said. “It was my first one ever.”

Williams made a nice run at state last year on the way to a fifth-place finish, and he’s eyeing the big prize this year.

“I think I can do it, definitely,” Williams said. “I think I should win it.”

Another one of Callaway’s area champions is freshman JoJo Shuman, who wrestled his way to the top spot at 220 pounds.

“I felt pretty confident going in, but still, it’s pretty hard,” Shuman said. “There’s some good guys in that weight class. It was a challenge. I’m glad I got it done.”

Shuman knows what’s ahead of him.

Shuman will be sharing the stage with 23 other elite wrestlers in his weight class, and he’s eager to see how he stacks up against them.

“It’s been a pretty big challenge, trying to take it to the next level,” Shuman said. “I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m ready.”

Callaway’s Isaiah Shoemake, who is in his first season at Callaway, won the area championship at 138 pounds.

“That was my goal,” Shoemake said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to do it. It’s my first year going to state, because I just moved here from California. It’s different.”

Cummings appreciates what Shoemake has brought to the team.

“He’s a newcomer, and he moved right into a leadership role here, and it shows on the mat,” Cummings said. “He works with the young kids, he’s very smart with his wrestling ideas.”

Callaway’s second-place finishers at the area tournament were Gilbert, Colton Cline (160 pounds), Alan Shuman (195 pounds) and Jacob Miles (285 pounds).

Tyrus Edwards (106 pounds), Octavious Colton (113 pounds), Troy Helton (152 pounds) and Ethan Mill (182 pounds) placed third to advance to state.

Helton is one of three seniors on the team along with Gilbert and Williams.

Elijah Copeland (126 pounds) and Desmond Nunley (145 pounds) placed fourth and are state alternates.

It was a successful day for Callaway, with 11 of its 13 wrestlers earning an invitation to state.

“Our team has come a long way,” said JoJo Shuman. “We’ve done a lot of conditioning to get into shape, and our guys really have come a long way, and it’s special for 11 guys to make it to state.”

Cummings, who coaches the team along with Robbie Adams, was proud of what his wrestlers accomplished last week.

“We had 11 out of 13 qualify, and the other two are alternates, so everybody was a top-four guy, and we had three champions,” Cumming said. “That’s a big accomplishment.”

AREA FINISHERS

106 – Tyrus Edwards (third)

113 – Octavious Colton (third)

126 – Elijah Copeland (fourth)

132 – LaDarrious Williams (first)

138 – Isaiah Shoemake (first)

145 – Desmond Nunley (fourth)

152 – Troy Helton (third)

160 – Colton Cline (second)

170 – LaQuize Gilbert (second)

182 – Ethan Mill (third)

195 – Alan Shuman (second)

220 – JoJo Shuman (first)

285 – Jacob Miles (second)