There will be some high expectations traveling with the seven Carrollton High School wrestling team members to Duluth today for the GHSA Traditional State Championships at the Infinite Energy Arena.
The Trojans performed well at sectionals and will try and carry the momentum into the 2 p.m. opening round. Sending seven to state, half the weight classes, is a point of pride for the Trojans as they will be well-represented among the Class AAAA field.
"It's pretty great knowing that most of us are going. It's a great experience for all of them. Most people don't get this chance," Carrollton junior Nick Voiles said. "You've just got to go in knowing that you're the best. If you want to win, you've got to have the mentality that you're going to win."
In his first year with the Carrollton program, head coach Michael Cleek came in and wanted to have team success. That happened first with qualifying for the state duals and carried over into sending seven to the traditional tournament.
"It shows that the things I tried to teach, they can be adapted to four-A wrestling. I don't take any credit, as far as the drilling. I've showed a few things, but they had a preset skill set when I got here and coach Jeff Sharp has done an excellent job," Cleek said. "These boys, they are committed and it's been fun to watch the evolution from the beginning of the year when we were struggling to find our identity, struggling to get our whole team on the mat to here the last month or so we've really been wrestling well. Coach Sharp and I talk about it, peaking at the right time. I feel like they have."
There is a reason the Trojans are sending seven, including five top-four sectional finishers, and it's not a fluke. All season long Carrollton has been putting in the work to get to this point. That's something that has gotten it to state and something it will want to remember when it's there.
"Just knowing that you've put in more work is going to give you that little extra to go on when you start getting tired," sophomore Luke Frost said. "You've got to know that you put in more work, not just say you put in more work. You've got to have confidence."
Voiles, at 138 pounds, and heavyweight Martez Hudson were the two sectional winners for the Trojans and they will lead the team into the final weekend of the season. Both have the ability to get themselves high up on the podium by Saturday afternoon.
"Nick Voiles is one of the toughest kids I've ever seen just drilling and working and Martez is just a warrior and a tank. The only limit to Martez Hudson is Martez Hudson. If he will work as hard as he's capable of, if he will learn to be a student of the game and learn to condition, there's no reason he can't be a multiple time state-placer, if not state champion," Cleek said. "We're looking for great things out of both of those young men."
At 106 pounds, Frost finished third at sectionals and is ready for his second trip to the state tournament.
"I guess the best kept secret in Carrollton wrestling is Luke Frost. He's a machine, he never gets tired, he never stops, he never misses a rep. Hard work pays off in this sport and for Luke Frost it is really paying off in spades," Cleek said.
The other third-place finisher for the Trojans was Tucker Sippola, a junior at 145 pounds, and sophomore Grant McKinley took fifth at 160 pounds. They have been drilling together and will get each other ready for what they'll see in Duluth.
"The other guys, they're veterans, they've wrestled a little bit, they know what's going on. Grant McKinley and Tucker Sippola, they were both state qualifiers last year and they're good practice partners," Cleek said. "They get after it every day and I think that's going to help them … They push each other."
Another sophomore, Kevin Quintenar, placed eighth at sectionals to qualify for the 113-pound bracket. As a new face to the starting lineup, Quintanar earned his trip to state.
"He put in the time, first-year starter. We told him if you just get in the room and you practice and you work hard, you're going to make the state tournament. He did well at area tournament, got in the sectional," Cleek said. "He pinned a kid and now he's in the state tournament like we promised him. It shows that hard work pays off."
The lone senior of the bunch is 126-pound Daniel Paravechio, who finished fourth. He's the one with the most experience and the leader by example in the wrestling room.
"Daniel Parivechio, being our only senior, you expect him to go to state. You expect your seniors to put in enough work that they're going to be in the state tournament and he did. He worked hard and he wrestled out of his mind," Cleek said. "He's really been working his rear end off and am so proud of what he's accomplished this year."
With four sophomores, two juniors and a senior making the trip, there is still a lot of youth in the Carrollton program. That makes this weekend a good springboard for their seasons next year, no matter what happens.
"They're young guys, they've got a road ahead of them. And here's the thing, our other sectional guys were sophomores and freshmen. We're excited. We've got things going on. We've got a good group of kids coming up from the middle school. Coach Mike Mason's been preaching what we've been teaching," Cleek said. "Everybody wants to be a Trojan football player. I want everyone to want to be a Trojan wrestler, too."
Even though sending seven to state alone is a success in itself, Cleek doesn't want that to define the season. Getting to state is one thing, but placing is another and that should be the goal of every Trojan hitting the mat this weekend.
"You've got to win the first one. You win the first one and you're in great shape to get on the podium. We're focused on the first match, get past it and do one match at a time," Cleek said. "They know, basically, you're in the third round of the playoffs if this is football or basketball. They've been through some elimination rounds, they know there's no tomorrow if they don't win. So we're going to work on it, go one match at a time and I would love to see seven Trojans on the podium. That's our goal. I don't care if anybody thinks it's not realistic. I think we can do it."
Story by Jordan Hofeditz
Reprinted from Times-Georgian