The Trojans' title dreams were dashed by eventual state champions Gilmer on Friday, and first-year coach Ryan Wilman was proud of how his team stepped up on Saturday following the disappointment.
"Going into [Friday] afternoon and the match against Gilmer, we had competed against them once before, lost 41-24 that first time. We really felt confident and comfortable that this time around we had made some weight adjustments, inserted some guys into the lineup that weren't there the first time around and felt good about an opportunity to beat them," Wilman said. "Unfortunately, we came up short and they wrestled very well."
The Trojans finished fourth after defeating Marist, 51-30, in the consolation semifinals for a shot at a trophy following the disappointment of losing out on the ultimate goal.
"[Saturday] morning we wrestled Marist and really got back on track. Really impressed with the team up and down the lineup against Marist, which is a tough team and we beat them soundly ... I thought our team did a great job bouncing back after an emotional loss," Wilman said.
Even though the Trojans fell to West Laurens in a 41-36 decision, they bring home the state dual trophy in program history. In a five-point dual, it came down to one match that Carrollton couldn't quite pull out.
"[West Laurens] was the No. 2 seed and I thought we wrestled a heck of a match. It was a back-and-forth war the entire time and our guys did a great job not getting too emotional and staying focused on their individual matches. We went out there and did a really good job against a very tough team. We lost one key match, one we thought we would win, and we ended up not only losing, but getting pinned. That was the difference in the match. It was a swing match, and I think they expected to lose there and came up big," Wilman said.
Last year, Carrollton took third place at the traditional state meet, but did not place in the duals after making it in Class AAA the previous two seasons.
"I'm proud of the fact that this team has accomplished something that none of the other Carrollton wrestling teams have by coming in, wrestling, taking care of business and coming home with a fourth-place finish. That's a credit to them and the hard work they've put in this season and previous seasons," Wilman said.
Now the first-year Trojan coach isn't going to let this weekend's finish deter his squad from aiming for a state title in February.
"I think long-term, and really Feb. 14 through the 16th we're every bit as confident as we've ever been that we'll come home with the traditional state title. I know the guys believe in it and the guys made a commitment to come home and getting better over the next four weeks and doing everything that we have to to make sure we do come home with the title this February," Wilman said.
The drive to the traditional tournament will begin with an impressive assortment of talent at the Sham Slam next weekend, which is hosted by Habersham Central. Wilman expects the top talent in the state to be on hand and give his Trojans a good taste of what it will take to win the traditional title.
"You've got teams like Collins Hill, Jefferson, Buford, Archer, North Gwinnett, Commerce. The tournament we're going to this weekend is going to be tougher than our state tournament. We don't have much time to mess around. Our guys competed hard and did a great job this weekend. The focus this week is getting better every single day and wrestling in a tournament that really will put things in perspective," Wilman said. "I'm really excited about that opportunity."