Athlete of the week: Braydon Bowen is chasing his second consecutive state championship

Published 8:25 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Braydon Bowen’s legendary wrestling career is nearing its final curtain call. After 10 years of calling the mat his home, the Troup High senior and reigning state champ has just a month before hanging up his singlet for good when his season wraps in February. 

“There have been some highs and lows this season, it’s been like a roller coaster,” Bowen said. “I’m just trying to stay consistent because February will be the last time I wrestle.”

Bowen promises to go out with a bang. After claiming an individual state championship last year, Bowen is looking to re-stake his claim as the best wrestler in his weight class in the state and repeat as a state championship.

“My only goal other than winning a team championship is another state title,” Bowen said. “This year I’m hoping to win another one, but I know it’s going to be difficult, but since I’ve been there and seen the best of the best I know what to expect.”

Last year’s state championship win gave the Troup wrestler star a feeling that he has yet to eclipse. There is now an iconic video of Bowen running over to his head coach, Drew Garner, after winning the state championship, picking him up and slamming him down in pure jubilation.

“He has been there for me every step of the way. He pushed me to be better. He wants me to be better because he has seen the top level of wrestling and has poured everything into me.”

Bowen and Garner’s bond is special. When he first got into wrestling at the age of eight years old, he was a member of Garner’s youth wrestling program. Over the next decade, Bowen climbed up the ranks from youth wrestler to Long Cane wrestler to Troup High wrestler all the way to state champ — the first Tiger wrestler to accomplish that feat in 15 years.

It has been a meteoric rise for Bowen. He lost only nine matches last season on his way to a state championship and has somehow elevated his game to new heights this year and has only lost four matches total this season.

“I feel like I’m on another level now,” he said. “I have been putting in the work to get better. I’m trying to take the extra step and stay after practice to keep working.”

As the top dog, he has a target on his back and he is well aware that everybody is gunning for his position. Every single time he lines up across from another wrestler, he knows he is getting their best shot.

“When you walk into a tournament everybody is looking at you because they know who you are,” Bowen said of what it is like to be a reigning state champion. “Everybody there wants to beat you, so it makes you have to step it up and find another level.”

Already an individual state champion, Bowen wants to lead the team to a state championship. The Tigers finished in the top 8 of AAAA last season and with the team state competition set for this Friday and Saturday, Bowen has eyes firmly set on that goal.

“We want to win, really,” Bowen said. “We want to have fun and go out there and compete, but we want to come home with a championship.”

Bowen has always been a natural leader for some of the younger wrestlers on the team but has become even more influential during his final season with the Tigers.

“Everybody is expecting me to set the standard and win and all that, it’s a lot of pressure,” Bowen said. “It’s about staying calm and staying ready to make sure the young guys have a good example.”