The GRIND: The “worst feeling ever” is also the one pushing Pinecrest’s Joe Metz towards his ultimate goal: A state championship.
In the time since he lost in the championship match of the Class 1A-Private wrestling tournament, Joe Metz has gotten bigger, gained experience, and learned a tactic that has changed the way he’s looked at the sport.
He’s also obtained a new favorite shirt.
That final acquisition is directly related to the third: Metz, a junior at Pinecrest Academy, went to a 14-day intensive wrestling camp led by J Robinson, the legendary former coach at the University of Minnesota.
The camp pushed Metz harder than he ever had in the sport, with four workouts a day and a points system that ranked the 200 wrestlers at the camp. If a wrestler ranked high enough, he would receive a shirt that says “I Did It,” one of which Metz is now a proud owner.
But the camp also focused on the mental side of wrestling, particularly on positive visualization. Metz has used that skills to focus on a specific scenario: Beating Colton Woods.
“That was probably one of the worst feelings ever, losing that match,” Metz said. “…I think about it all the time.”
It was Woods, now a senior at the Darlington School in Rome, that beat Metz in the title match at 132 pounds in Macon last February, overpowering Metz physically and winning by 5-0 decision. That has given Metz the confidence to know that he can get back to that stage in the tournament, and it’s also motivated him to make sure he doesn’t repeat the result.
It’s not that Metz blew it, necessarily: Mark Schmidt, Pinecrest’s coach, readily admits that Woods was the stronger, more versatile and more seasoned wrestler at the time. And in the time since, Metz has worked to close that gap, improving his strength and physical conditioning, adding more moves to his repertoire – specifically working on being on his feet – and building a more aggressive mindset.
“He’s had to learn that,” Schmidt said. “That wasn’t a natural instinct for Joe.”
Metz is the fourth-youngest of 11 siblings, most of whom have played some sport for Pinecrest – Margaret, his sister, was All-County Girls Basketball Player of the Year in 2017 – but the first to wrestle full-time. Metz also focused mainly on basketball until fifth grade, when his father, who wrestled in high school, had him join South Forsyth Youth Wrestling. Metz credits Billy Pope, his coach at that level, as a major influence on his development in the sport.
Pinecrest started its wrestling program four years ago, when Metz was in eighth grade, and while he was one of the youngest members of the team, he was also one of the most experienced. And by training at CMP North, a wrestling training facility in Buford frequented by area athletes, he’s gotten on the level of the best in the county.
Metz has his eye on wrestling in college, preferably at a service academy. But his main focus right now is reversing the disappointment of last season and perhaps pulling off a historic feat for the school: A state championship would be Pinecrest’s first ever as a member of the GHSA.
“I don’t know why it doesn’t, because that kind of thing normally would weigh on me, but it’s just been a piece of excitement for me,” Metz said. “Almost like, ‘Go for it.’”