Rising Mat Devil seniors Brice Noggle (foreground, middle) and Gavin Brady (background, left) practice during open mat drills at Madison County High School June 27. (Photo by Cary Best)
Not satisfied to be second best, a hard-core group of Mat Devils looked to summer workouts to become state champions.
Elbert County’s wrestlers have been practicing four days a week since school got out, lifting weights, attending camps and participating in tournaments twice a week.
“I tell people all the time the biggest growth you see in a kid is during the summer because they’re not worried about making weight,” coach Shane Anderson explained during a Thursday night open mat drill session at Madison County High School June 24. “They don’t have to worry about classes. All they do is come in and lift and practice. The kids that have come in have wrestled almost another season during the summer.”
Last season, the team finished as runners-up in both state duals and state traditionals.
“Heck I don’t know what it takes to get over the hump,” Anderson joked. “I’ve been at the hump. You look at this last year. We only graduated three. We had a lot of young guys starting. You hope that those guys improve this summer. You hope that some of those other guys can fill in some spots.”
This winter Elbert will look to return five state placers and five state qualifiers.
Of those returning state placers, four will be seniors: Gavin Brady, Brice Noggle, Irbin Olmos and Qwen Moss.
Brady, a three-time state placer and two-time state runner-up, sounded determined to make a breakthrough this season during the open mat drills in Danielsville.
“Coach Anderson always says, ‘summer wrestling makes winter champions,’ ” said Brady. “I’ve been doing this ever since seventh grade, and I can tell this played a real big factor in how I wrestle. It’s made me so much better. This is the most dedicated I’ve been to be honest. It’s all gone by so quick. It’s crazy. I plan on being on top of the podium this year.”
Noggle too said he believed he was building upon his winter success this summer.
“More than anything, I’ve proved to myself just how good I can be this year,” said Noggle. If I work hard, I can be a state champ. There’s no doubt. It just takes the hard work we’re doing now.”
As for rising junior and returning state placer Hughes, Anderson said he had shown tremendous improve during the off-season training.
The top Mat Devil added his team had gained in overall strength and some of his wrestlers would be going up in their weight classes this upcoming season.
State qualifiers Marty Bailey, Nolan Johnson and Jamal Rucker had all put in hard work this summer and sharpened their abilities this summer, according to Anderson.
Rising freshman Payton Heard had impressed Anderson with his athleticism and explosiveness. The head coach added Heard had put himself in position to compete for a starting spot this season at the 106 weight class.
Overall, Anderson noted that Brady, Noggle, Hughes, Johnson, Bailey, Rucker, Heard, Olmos, Trez White, Johnathan Hulme, Khrystian Anderson, Cristian Hall, William Payne, Brady Vaughn, and Camden Harris had put in summer work and improved the team.