As a junior, Dylan Fairchild was the definition of automatic.
Back in February, he entered the Macon Centreplex for the GHSA state traditional meet with an undefeated record. By all accounts, the West Forsyth heavyweight was the favorite to take the state title in his weight class.
As the finals approached and Fairchild continued his dominance on the mat, he was readying himself for the moment he could feel coming.
“I'd thought about it so much and pretty much just prayed about it, thought about it, trained for it,” Fairchild said. “That moment was just repeating in my head and it didn't happen yet. It just kept going in my head and I tried to envision myself, ‘I am a state champion. I'm not going to be — I am a state champion.’ I kept saying it over and over, like, ‘No one's going to let me not be a state champion.’”
And before long, his self-fulfilling prophecy came true. Fairchild hardly broke a sweat throughout his entire tournament run with none of his matches getting out of the first period, and after pinning Cherokee’s Todd Parks in just 32 seconds, he had ended his junior season a perfect 47-0.
“Whenever it happened it was kind of relaxing, because I was like, ‘I did it,’” Fairchild said. “I could go home and lay my head down and say I'm a state champion for real. It was a fulfilling moment.”
For someone with Fairchild’s size and skill, taking wins for granted could come with the territory. The toughest match of his tournament run was his quarterfinal matchup, which he won by fall in 1:18. But even though most of his matches as a junior were quick and easy, he was careful not to celebrate his victories until they were actually over.
“It's not done until it's done,” Fairchild said. “My finals match could have been all three periods. I was still kind of on edge because I always want to keep a sharp edge and make sure I'm not going to say, ‘Oh, this is easy,’ and then someone catch me off guard. I just kind of went out there with the same tempo with every single match. It's just a regular wrestling match, you know? I just went out there with the same mindset every time.”
For Fairchild, his junior year performance was the culmination of three years of incremental improvement, from 14 losses as a freshman to just a few as a sophomore to a state title as a junior. Fairchild still has another year left to potentially repeat.
“I look at pictures of me freshman year and I'm like, ‘Dang, that was a long time ago,’ and it really wasn’t,” Fairchild said. “It was only two and a half, three years ago.
“It's kind of surreal. Right now, I'm just kind of living in the moment. I want (to) one day be able to look back and say, ‘Wow, that was so fast and look at that and look at this,’ but right now I'm just kind of moving and going with things.”
Fairchild’s college future won’t be on the wrestling mat, though. He’s a highly coveted football recruit, with top-tier schools like LSU, Georgia, Florida State and Texas A&M having offered him as an offensive lineman. Fairchild wants to come back and wrestle again as a senior before fully committing to the gridiron, but with the weight requirements being different for each sport, he’ll have to wait and see.
“I'm probably going to be 300, 305, 310,” Fairchild said. “I don't know. I've been putting on weight every single summer like crazy since I was 6. I don't know what the summer's going to hold, but I'm definitely going to try my best (to come back). I think it would be good for me to cut — I'm still in high school and before I go to college, I kind of want to be a little bit lighter. I don't want to go in heavier. That would just be better for me so they can mold me into what they want.”
Fairchild doesn’t want to be the only one on his team with accolades next year, though. After West’s two straight traditional region titles and a third-place team finish at state, he’s looking forward to seeing what he and his teammates can do as a group.
“I just see that as a team, we're progressively getting better and better,” Fairchild said. “I think next year, I'm going to come back and be our heavyweight. We've got guys like Ethan Rickert, Chase Murray, Brody Knapp, Spencer Bovenizer all returning. Next year I think we've got a good shot of winning a team state championship.
“I'm just excited for next year. I really do think we have a huge chance to do something special.”