The first-year Carrollton High School wrestling coach takes his Trojans to the Area 5-AAAA Traditional Tournament on Saturday for the 9 a.m. start, and he is confident the entire dozen will record the needed top-four finish to qualify for the Class AAAA West Sectional on Feb. 8-9.
“I told our guys at the beginning of the week that everything we’ve done this season at competition and at practice has just been preparing us for these next three weeks,” Wilman said. “These are the most critical and also the most exciting, and this week is the start of taking that step to become a state champion — both as an individual and as a team.”
Carrollton will see a familiar foe on Saturday at LaGrange High School, where fellow quad-A power and state champion contender Alexander is expected to provide the stiffest competition, just like the at the area duals.
Wilman said as far as the team title goes, he’s leaning toward the Cougars simply because they fill all 14 weight classes, while the Trojans haven’t had a legitimate 138 or 220 all season. During the dual portion of competition, Wilman tried to bump guys around and do what he could not to give up forfeits. But now it’s simply about getting all 12 through.
“So that’s going to hurt us when you’re looking at a team race with Alexander, because they will have 14 and they do have a very balanced team. But I really feel good about our preparation and feel good about our ability to do very well in all 12 weights. Obviously, our main focus and we’ve been talking about it over the past few weeks, is that we may only have 12, but it’s important that each step of the way we continue to have that group of 12 wrestlers,” Wilman said.
Carrollton finished fourth in this year’s state duals and is coming off a third-place finish at last year’s traditional state tournament as a Class AAA program, where four of the five individual state-placers from that squad return this year.
Jake Adcock and Taylor Lujan both captured state championships last year as freshmen, while Rhett Hembree took third place after a runner-up finish as a freshman and Dan Harris came in fourth last February.
Wilman also has lofty aspirations from Travis Joyce, who was injured last season, along with Chris Foster, Turner Martin and several other grapplers to place and do well on the big stage in Macon.
Of course, you have to care of business over these next two weeks to do that, and the No. 1 priority this week is area.
“At area and sectionals, I feel we’ll be there at the very top this week and next week with Alexander and Gilmer. I think we’re going to have a real chance to shine at the state tournament when there’s a lot more depth and a lot more parity throughout the entire tournament. As I’ve said all season long, we’ve got six or seven guys that are just horses and can go really into the finals of any tournament,” Wilman said. “I think this weekend will be a good test run and preparation for those guys for what’s going to lie ahead the next two weeks.”
The Trojans were off this past weekend and Wilman said after facing a formidable schedule leading up to this point, he wanted to be as rested and healthy as possible heading down the stretch run.
“Really, in my mind, we’ve faced probably the best competition out of any of our competitors in the quad-A classification. Looking at the schedule when I made it, I thought we needed to have that week off before [area] to get all of our guys healthy. Take advantage of just really tailor-fitting everything and really just making those small adjustments to make sure that the guys are in the right technical zones and very proficient and feeling good walking into the area tournament healthy,” Wilman said.