Troup wrestling hits the road for state competition

Published 8:00 am Friday, January 19, 2024

The Troup wrestling team is gunning for a state championship. The Tigers finished in the top 6 in the AAAA duals state meet last season and have eyes on another deep run this year.

“We have some deficits, but I feel like we are a more well-balanced team this year than we have been,” Garner said.

This is one of the most talented and veteran groups that Garner has had at Troup High whether as an assistant coach or head coach.

Garner was an assistant coach on his brother Craig Garner’s staff at Troup for four seasons, including one of the best seasons in recent years in 2017-2018 season that ended with a third-place finish at the state meet and last year was the highest the team has finished since he took over as head coach in 2019. 

“This is the most seniors I’ve had since I’ve been at Troup,” Garner said. 

The core of the team consists of a large senior contingent, but the team is also laden with freshmen who have had to step up in a big way this season. Many of them helped the Long Cane program win a state championship last season, but the state meet at the high school level is another beast entirely.

“We have a ton of freshmen this year and this experience will be invaluable for them,” Garner said. “Our seniors this year did not have this opportunity as freshmen, heck, they didn’t even have this opportunity as 10th graders.”

“Just competing at this will benefit our program as a whole.”

Reigning individual state champ Braydon Bowen has been an outstanding leader for the young guys, but he is not alone.

“Tim Dunn and Averette Ellison have really stepped up this year,” Garner said. “DJ Langley has come a long way since he first started wrestling as a 10th grader.

“This is a brotherhood and it’s a rite of passage sport and those freshman are really embracing the challenge set by the seniors.”

Troup won its second straight region 4-4A championship last week and the team is primed to keep building on their region championship performance against Whitewater last week.

This year’s state format is different than the format in recent years. It will consist of two days instead of one, with 16 teams instead of eight battling it out for the title. The new format brought some new challenges as the Tigers will have to travel even further and stay overnight, but Garner is excited about the new format.

“I like it,” he said. “Traditionally this is the format I’m used to.”

All the Tigers have to do is win one match to extend their stay to Saturday as the tournament is double-elimination.

The Tigers will be making the trip to Chestatee High School on Friday, bright and early at 8 a.m. Troup is seeded sixth and will take on Wayne County in the opening round. 

“We have Wayne County in the first round and I don’t know much about them and haven’t competed against them this year,” Garner said. “They are a South Georgia team, so they are battled-tested and tough.”

Frank Mata, Gavin Laney, Zane Taliaferro, Bryson Demooney, Carson Vaillant, Kameron Huzzie, Troy Love, Tim Dunn, DJ Langley, Braydon Bowen, Chance Grier, Averette Ellison, Preston Strickland, Jonderious Williams, Noah Arrington and John Pulliam all will have to bring their A-game if Troup is to return with a state championship in hand.