South Forsyth wrestling coach Josh Stephen has been building the War Eagles’ program to compete with the blue-bloods like West and North Forsyth since he arrived on school grounds.
Through the process, Stephen said there’s always been one constant in his program.
Matthew, Andrew and Mikey Meersman are three brothers that make up 21 percent of South’s varsity wrestling roster. Their mom, Carrie, leads the booster club and has since her eldest son joined the program.
“Ever since I’ve been here they’ve been involved so much,” Stephen said. “They’re just dedicated. Always guys who are here when they’re supposed to be. They’ve been a big part of trying to jump-start the program to be a big contender.”
Eight years ago, a family friend convinced the Meersman parents to enroll their sons in South’s youth wrestling program. Matthew, Andrew and Mikey were all in elementary school playing football at the time.
When they started wrestling, it was a newfound love.
With Matthew now a senior and Mikey a freshman, Mikey said he knew that if he did not make the varsity team, he could blow the only chance for all three brothers to be on the same team.
“I was kind of nervous,” Mikey said. “They’re all varsity, so I was hoping I could be with them on the varsity team. When I knew I was on varsity, I was really excited. Just to know that we were all going to be on the same team together and get to do duals was going to be a lot of fun.”
Mikey said he’s benefited from having both older brothers there for guidance, and Stephen said that Matthew has stepped up as a leader like never before.
On the other hand, Andrew, a sophomore, said he has found a groove as his role in the middle of the two.
“It’s cool,” Andrew said. “It was fun to know that I have someone to look up to, but I also have someone to mentor at the same time. It was good to know I have some responsibility, but also a mentor to look up to.”
With area traditionals on Saturday the Meersman brothers each have a chance to qualify for the state tournament.
Matthew said that area traditionals have been his “nemesis” all throughout his high school career.
His freshman year, he wrestled against all seniors, and though he said he didn’t wrestle his best, he still qualified for the state tournament as the top alternate.
He called his sophomore year the worst day of wrestling in his life, where he lost two matches against wrestlers he beat earlier in the year. Last year, shoulder surgery sidelined him from area traditionals.
“So this is my ‘last hoorah’ or ‘third times a charm,’” Matthew said. “This is everything I’ve been working for the last eight years. I’m holding nothing back. Whoever I’m wrestling against is going to get everything I’ve got.”
Matthew went 3-0 individually during this year’s area duals tournament. Andrew and Mikey also want to advance out of area duals so no brother has to watch the state tournament on the sidelines.
“I know I’ve put in the work so I know what I need to know, but I know there’s going to be some good competition up against me,” Andrew said.
Mikey said his first area tradition is his time to prove that he can carry the name Meersman on his back, just like his brothers.
“There’s some big shoes to fill with how well they both did as freshman,” Mikey said. “I always feel like I’ve got to prove myself since I’m the youngest. I need to show that I belong sitting next to them.”
Matthew and Mikey both plan to wrestle aggressively on offensive during Saturday’s tournament. Andrew said he will wait on the defense the entire first period, then attack in the second.
However, all three brothers said they wrestle aggressively on offense in their three-way matches in the basement at home.
“We’ve had a couple matches in our basement considering those guidelines, and I think we take him down the majority of the time,” Mikey said.
However, Matthew said seven wins out of 10 is the minimum amount he would expect to win.
Once high school wrestling is over this year, Matthew said he plans on studying business with a focus on marketing, since one of his favorite things is talking in front of people.
State champion or not, Matthew can rest knowing that he has passed the Meersman torch onto the next wave of Meersman wrestlers at South Forsyth.