The Carrollton High School sophomore has already shot down an individual crown at the prep level, but the 126-pounder and his Trojan teammates are gunning for team glory at the GHSA Class AAAA State Duals, which start this afternoon with a 4:30 p.m. opening-round encounter against South Effingham in the Macon Centreplex.
Coming off a third-place finish last season at the AAA level, Carrollton is going all-in for the top spot this time around.
“We’ve already got third once — we don’t want to get third again. It’s that kind of motivation driving us. That was a big thing for us last year. Yeah, it was disappointing, but it was also the highest placing we had ever gotten. But there’s no real glory in it this year to get third again,” Adcock said.
First-year Carrollton coach Ryan Wilman is confident his squad is fully prepared for what lies ahead over the next three days after getting battle-tested through its early-season schedule and then in a pair of duals against fellow AAAA state title contender Alexander, the last of which was a 38-36 setback in the Area 5-AAAA Duals last weekend.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that there is no other team better prepared than Alexander and Carrollton after coming out of our region. I felt like that’s a matchup that we could see this weekend in the state finals. So knowing that you’re wrestling against an opponent that literally is right there in the hunt for a state title, no other team — Gilmer can’t say that, West Laurens can’t say that, Locust Grove can’t say that, Marist can’t say that,” Wilman said.
Carrollton is the No. 5 seed in the 16-team bracket and will face Area 3-AAAA champ South Effingham in the opening round. Should the Trojans prevail, they would likely face fourth-seeded Locust Grove on Friday morning in the quarterfinals and could potentially meet top-seeded and defending AAA state duals champ Gilmer in the semifinals early Friday evening. West Laurens and Alexander are the favorites to reach the finals from the bottom side of the bracket as the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively.
“I imagine that we’ll handle our business, go out with the right focus and intensity and should end up rolling through that match [against South Effingham]. I think they’ll have a couple of tough individuals, but I think the depth of our team and really the strength of our team will be significant enough to where we’ll be coming away from that one walking with our heads up high,” Wilman said.
“[Locust Grove] is going to be a tough, talented team. They’ve got eight returning state qualifiers and four returning state place-winners. They match up with us very well — where they’re very good, we’re very good — so that’ll be an interesting match and certainly one where our focus has got to be there.”
Carrollton’s Travis Joyce said the team is healthy and confident going into the duals this weekend. And as one of four seniors in the starting lineup, the 195-pounder is hoping to go out with a memorable performance come Saturday.
“We know we’ve put the work in, but we also know there’s a lot of good teams that are going to be there. So it’s all about how we wrestle this weekend,” Joyce said. “We know we have the capabilities, we have the guys that we can win it all. So that’s the mindset that we’re taking in. We’ve just got to wrestle our best.”
The Trojans only lost two wrestlers from their starting lineup that finished third last year, and the experience of competing on the big stage should be beneficial this weekend.
“So they’ve all seen that environment, seen what it’s like to wrestle in Macon and they know the intensity of the crowd. Just how matches can get away from you and how you can steamroll and get ahead of other teams. So, obviously, experience is vital,” Wilman said.
Trojan junior Rhett Hembree recalls how everyone has been waiting for these classes to finally come through at Carrollton, and he is looking forward to delivering a title for the wrestling program.
“It didn’t look like it was going to happen for a while, but it’s all starting to fall together. Having coach Wilman here, that’s big with all his wrestling knowledge. We’re starting to come together as a team. We have a lot of talent. We’ve just got to put it all together and we’d be unstoppable,” Hembree said.
As far as the Trojans’ draw, it’s much more favorable than last year when they opened with Gilmer in the first round. And while it is hard not to look ahead and guess how the bracket will ultimately unfold, Carrollton is doing its best to focus on one match at a time.
“You try not to, but inevitably you do. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t beat Alexander, because that would have, on paper, put us on an easier road. But, again, no road to the state finals is very easy,” Adcock said.
Wilman admits that he had his concerns heading into the area meet after what he described as a lackluster effort in a dual with Bremen earlier in the week. But after seeing the team redeem itself at area, it gave the first-year Carrollton coach a certainty of just how good it can be when competing at the level it is capable of on the mat.
“Going in this weekend, I feel that Carrollton is right there in the hunt, right where we want to be,” Wilman said.
And for seniors like Joyce, this is the time to shine and really do something special in the name of Trojan wrestling.
“We have four seniors that have been around for a long time and done a lot of wrestling. So we know what the atmosphere is going to be like. Last year, we didn’t do what we were hoping for. We were hoping to get a state championship. So we’re going up this year to win it all. But we’d also like to set a tone for Carrollton wrestling in the future. Start something this year that hopefully continues a tradition for Carrollton wrestling for years to come,” Joyce said.