Troup wrestlers shine at area meet
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Troup High’s Kullum Irvin has his eyes on the big prize.
After taking care of business and winning his weight class in Saturday’s area tournament at Troup High, Irvin has turned his attention to the Class AAAA state finals that will be held in Macon this week.
Irvin, along with 23 other competitors, will vie for the
152-pound state championship in the Macon Coliseum on Thursday and Friday.
Irvin has enjoyed an exceptional junior season that continued with a winning performance on Saturday.
After reaching the finals, Irvin beat LaGrange’s Julian Santiago to win his first area title.
“It felt great,” Irvin said. “With my mom, and my grand dad, and my brother to see me win an area title, it’s amazing to me.”
Now, Irvin will try to chase down a state title.
“That’s my goal,” said Irvin, who has a 33-3 record. “That’s on the top of my to-do list. For me to do that, it’d be crazy. I’d lose my mind. I know I can do it.”
While Irvin was focused on his own matches on Saturday, he was also there for his teammates, pushing and encouraging them and trying to help them get to Macon as well.
When the day ended, eight Troup wrestlers qualified for state by finishing third or higher in their respective weight classes.
“I just feel like, whenever you get behind a teammate, it helps,” Irvin said.
Drew Garner, Troup’s head coach, appreciates what Irvin brings to the team.
“Kullum’s the best leader a coach could ask for,” Garner said.
Junior Franklin Jackson has also had a phenomenal season for Troup, and he rolled to an area championship in the 132-pound weight class.
Jackson beat Tyler Secoy of Columbus High in the finals by injury default.
Jackson was winning the match when Secoy’s injury time ran out, and he felt he had the measure of his opponent.
“Wrestling around with him, I figured out where he was,” Jackson said. “I like to scramble. I thought if I stop his scramble, I stop him.”
While happy to bring home an area title, Jackson’s primary focus is on getting it done in Macon.
“Honestly, I’m just looking forward to next one (in Macon),” Jackson said. “I know there’s a lot more hard work to put in these next couple of days.”
Three other Troup wrestlers made it to the championship round before falling short.
At 120 pounds, Brayden Hutchins got a big win over LaGrange’s Hunter Brooks in the semifinals before losing to Spencer’s Malik Hardy in the finals.
Hutchins has struggled to beat Brooks in the past, and he was able to reverse that script on Saturday.
“That kid has owned us last year, and you love it when a plan comes together,” Garner said.
Another second-place finisher for Troup was Braydon Bowen, who fell to Adrian Villegas-Riedel of Columbus in the 126-pound championship match.
Troup’s Christian Hudson reached the championship match at 182 pounds before losing to Austin Toelle of Columbus.
After the loss, Hudson said “the lesson is to push harder, and practice even harder.”
Troup’s third-place finishers were Wyatt Turner (106 pounds), Tim Dunn (145 pounds) and Braxton Truitt (285 pounds), and Thomas Fuller (138 pounds) and Braylon Hardy (220 pounds) placed fourth and just missed out on qualifying for state.
As a team, Troup finished third behind Columbus and Spencer, and Garner is proud of what the wrestlers who have made it through to the end of the season accomplished, both on the mat and off.
“With high expectations come high standards,” Garner said. “This year, my prayer has been to give me a team to honor and glorify God, and I feel like that’s what we’ve done. I’ve very pleased.”
Garner also appreciated everyone who helped make Saturday’s tournament a success.
“We have got more support than any coach could ask for,” Garner said. “I feel like, overall, today couldn’t have gone any better, other than our individual performances, but we’re growing.”
Troup will also have three participants in this week’s girls’ state finals in Macon.
Haylee Ward (122 pounds), Loriana Reed (132 pounds) and Jazmine Goode (142 pounds) will each be one of 24 participants in their respective weight classes.
(Top three qualified for state)
106 – Wyatt Turner (third)
120 – Brayden Hutchins (second)
126 – Braydon Bowen (second)
132 – Franklin Jackson (first)
138 – Thomas Fuller (fourth)
145 – Tim Dunn (third)
152 – Kullum Irvin (first)
182 – Christian Hudson (second)
220 – Braylon Hardy (fourth)
285 – Braxton Truitt (third)
122 – Haylee Ward
132 – Loriana Reed
142 – Jazmine Goode