Back-to-back: Braydon Bowen goes out on top as a two-time state champ

Published 8:30 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

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Braydon Bowen has cemented his legacy as one of the best wrestlers to ever come through Troup County, regardless of school. Last Saturday, Bowen won his second straight individual wrestling state championship.

“It felt really good, but last year felt even better doing it for the first time,” Bowen said. “This still feels great because it’s still a state title and it’s hard to win.

“I knew I had the work ethic to do it, and I had a ton of people believe in me over the years and I always believed in myself too.”

Last year, Bowen may have been an underdog en route to his state championship. That was not the case this year as he put pressure on himself to repeat while getting the best shot from all of his opponents.

“Throughout the season I felt the pressure to repeat, but I was able to focus in and just go out there and wrestle,” he said. “Every tournament I went to I was getting everybody’s best shot.”

It was not just a repeat from last season. This season, Bowen competed at 144 lbs. while winning state at 138 lbs. last year. While a subtle difference it may seem, it can cause big differences on the mat.

“I felt pretty comfortable at both weight classes, but I felt even more comfortable this year because I didn’t have to cut as much weight as I did last year,” Bowen said. 

What was scary for his opponents this season is that Bowen felt even stronger and more mobile than he did during his run to the state championship as a junior.

The championship match in 2024 was controlled by Bowen for the majority of the first two rounds. But a critical mistake nearly cost him a chance to repeat as state champion.

“To start off the match I got a pretty good lead, I was able to take him down and put him on his back a few times,” Bowen said. “Instead of wrestling out the match, I just tried to hold on to the lead and that’s where I messed up and let him back into it, but at the end of the day I still won.”

That match will likely be the last time Bowen ever takes the mat as a competitor. He has no plans to wrestle at any non-high school tournaments this year and will forgo wrestling in college to join the workforce.

“It didn’t really hit me until a little while after the match that it was my last match and that kind of stung a little bit,” Bowen said. “It still hasn’t hit me that the season is really over yet.”