It isn’t the first trip to the state wrestling tournament for any of the Bi-City’s three sectional champions. Spencer senior Kameron Blackshear went as a sophomore, Kendrick junior Isaiah Sellers went a year ago as a sophomore and Carver senior Brooks Alfred went as both a sophomore and junior before clinching a third trip this year.
It was, however, the first time that they’d go in after winning sectionals, and the success of the season thus far has each thinking big for the tournament that begins on Thursday at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth.
For Alfred, those high expectations didn’t come quite as much until after his final match at sectionals. He was facing South Paulding’s Michael Farmer, a former individual state champion himself, in the 220-pound weight class. Alfred said he was only thinking about using that match as a barometer for how he could fare at state. After all, he didn’t place a year ago, his first in Class 5A after finishing in fifth in 3A as a sophomore.
“To be honest, I wasn’t worried about winning,” he said of the match against Farmer. “I was thinking, you know, even if I lose I can see what level I’m on.”
And after the match?
“Beating him, I know I’m right there,” he said.
Sellers said he hadn’t started thinking about state until after the sectionals had finished.
“I was so focused on winning that tournament, I wasn’t even thinking about state yet,” he said.
Like Alfred, though, his thoughts shifted immediately after his sectionals win in the 195. Now, as the first Kendrick wrestler to go to state in back-to-back years, he is thinking big.
“My drive, my focus,” he said. “I just believe that I can do it, whether its third, second or first. My goal is to take first, but I’m just taking every match as it comes.”
Blackshear made state as a sophomore, but was just a state alternate last year as a junior. After winning his sectional in the 170 this year, though, just making state isn’t going to be good enough.
“Winning the sectional just opens your eyes,” he said. “It makes you feel like it’s possible (to win state).”
But his approach is still going to be the same as it has been all year, and that is to just have fun.
“I’ve never had stage fright,” he said. “You do want to perform at your best when people are watching. But have fun. Just have fun. That’s what it comes down to. Don’t psych yourself out. That’s what it’s for, just to have fun.”
Alfred, meanwhile, is just going to focus on No. 1.
“I just want to work my moves,” he said. “I don’t want to go out there and do something that I don’t usually work. I want to go do what I’m used to doing.”
Right now, he’s used to winning, and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.
A total of 19 other wrestlers qualified to state in addition to the three sectionals winners. In Class 5A, other qualifiers are: John Jones (106, Northside), Javon Walker (145, Carver), Josh McAlister (138, Columbus), William Nana-Fabu (285, Columbus), Sh’kale Barnes (113, Hardaway). In 3A, they are: Spencer’s Elijah McNickels (138), Jeremy Burgess (152), Jasaad Graves (220), Chris Baker (285), Bryan Williams (182), Isiah Arredondo (106), Kendrick’s Devon Hill (120) and Jordan’s Renard Swiney (295).
Class A include Brookstone’s Dre Dashiell and Carlos Vizcarrando, and Pacelli’s Colin Mulvany (120) and Tanner Hall (152). Chattahoochee County had two in Class 2A, Isaiah Sanchez (106) and C.J. Afoa (195).