Last year Brantley Little was just a freshman at North Forsyth High School, but that isn’t to say he wasn’t earning a reputation.
As a newcomer on the Raiders wrestling team, Little and an influx of newcomers in his same class bolstered an already dominant program—one that eventually, led by senior Tanner Buggs, captured the county and both area titles.
While the upperclassmen were battling for championships, they had given a moniker to the freshman in practice: “The Too Soons.”
To earn such a tongue-in-cheek nickname meant the youngsters in the bunch had earned the respect of the senior leaders. One particular relationship of note was Little’s mentorship from Buggs, who finished 35-8, won the area title and placed fourth at state.
“I was mentored by probably one of my favorite seniors,” Little said of Buggs. “Over the summer I continued to do what he taught me, and with the help of him and coaches I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress.”
Feelings aside, the progress is marked. During the preseason Little went to compete with Team Georgia at the preseason nationals in Iowa. Little competed in eight matches, winning five and placing sixth, earning all-American status.
“It was a great confidence boost,” Little said. “There were multiple state champions. I talked to some college coaches. They didn’t realize how young I was.”
Now, when Little strolls in and out of practice, friends and teammates will crack jokes about him making it to the big time, but the truth is, the sophomore is still as humble as he claims he’s always been.
It’s his attitude that sticks out to head coach Travis Jarrard, who sees Little as the leader of a much younger team than he had a year ago.
“He’s been in the youth program for a while so I’ve known him for a while and have seen him coming up,” Jarrard said. “We have a group of sophomores here that are going to be special, it’s not that they are really talented, but they are. It’s not that we have a good number of them, but we do. They’re just good kids, polite, respectful and they work hard, and Brantley is kind of the leader of the pack when it comes to the off-the-matt stuff.”
Brantley’s routine isn’t that of your everyday 16-year old. He gets to school at 5 a.m. for weight training, attends class, then goes out to the track for conditioning in the afternoon, running laps and flipping tires. Then he goes home, eats dinner, knocks out his homework, and goes straight to bed so he can squeeze in eight hours of sleep before doing it all again.
“I’m used to it now,” Little said. “It’s been a year and a half since we started doing it. It’s a challenge but you know it pays off. I just love wrestling, so to me, it’s nothing.”
Little says he’s built a close bond with his teammates, especially the 15 other sophomores on the team, growing up through the youth program since the sixth grade.
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Little said. “We started in the youth program together. The comradery of the team here is great, you’re fighting for your buddies.”
“It’s huge, when you’ve got a big group of kids like that, if other teammates can see somebody being successful, being popular and not falling into those pitfalls, that’s just as important as a kid coming in here for 60 matches and placing at state,” Jarrard said.
This season the Raiders will be seeking their third straight sweep of Area 6-AAAAAA titles, as well as an appearance at state.
“It’s big shoes to fill, but I believe we have what it takes to keep the streak going,” Little said.