MACON — The most nervous member of the North Forsyth wrestling program on the day of a match is often its coach. Travis Jarrard is in his 18th year leading the Raiders, and that hasn’t diluted any of the emotions he goes through when his athletes are wrestling.
“As a coach, I’m going crazy,” Jarrard said. “I’m throwing up, I’m pacing, I’m sweating, all the emotions run through.”
Senior Conner Carroll, on the other hand, was hardly feeling any of that. The 160-pounder was in his first state final on Saturday at the Macon Centreplex, and with Carroll being a senior, it would be last chance at a state title in his high school career. The circumstances weren’t really getting to him, though.
“Actually, I was kind of surprised,” Carroll said. “I felt pretty calm. I would probably say that’s from Connor Cross also being in the finals, so we got to warm up together on the mat, and I felt comfortable, knowing that I had a friend going into it together.”
Carroll controlled his emotions, and then he controlled the match. The first period against Camden County’s Michael Gibson passed uneventfully, but Carroll opened the second period with a takedown, ended it with a near fall, and when he got a quick reversal after starting the third period on the bottom, he rode the rest of the match out comfortably, scarcely giving Gibson an opening.
Carroll was the lone county wrestler to win a title on Saturday. Four others placed second: Forsyth Central’s Abraham Perez lost 10-5 to Clint Gilbert of Collins Hill at 106 pounds; South Forsyth’s A.J. Riner lost to Camden County’s Tyler Crew by fall in the third period; Pinecrest’s Joe Metz lost to Colton Woods of the Darlington School 5-0 at 132 pounds; and North’s Cross lost 3-2 to Mountain View’s Harrison Spikes at 195 pounds.
Metz’s match was particularly intriguing due to the possibility it raised, of giving Pinecrest it’s first state title, individual or team, in any sport since the Paladins joined the GHSA. Metz, a sophomore, finished fifth last year, and in the program’s third year of existence, he reached the final in 2018.
The significance of a title wasn’t weighing on Metz’s mind, though – he’s one of 10 siblings, most of whom played or play for Pinecrest, and he had seen a state championship before, just at the GISA level.
“That’s one thing I actually never thought about until you brought it up,” Metz said.
The matchup with Woods, who had two straight state titles, proved insurmountable, though. Paladins head coach Mark Schmidt pointed to a difference in strength between the two wrestlers as the difference, while Metz blamed his own lack of aggressiveness.
Schmidt still came away with a positive outlook, though, given Metz’s youth and future potential. He’s the first member of his 10 siblings to compete in wrestling for the Paladins, and he has two younger brothers also competing in the sport. The time between Metz’s freshman and sophomore years was about refining technique and mindset, and the next step is getting stronger physically.
“Joe will be there next year,” Schmidt said. “That won’t be an issue for us next year, no doubt about it.”
The Raiders finished second in the team standings, behind Camden County and 1.5 points ahead of Archer.