COVINGTON -- Now that Newton's wrestling team achieved their goal of making it to the Class AAAAA state duals tournament at the Macon Centreplex, they cannot let up.
"I'm not going to go to say I'm just happy to be here. If we're going to go our goal is to win first place but I can except if we do our best," said Newton head wrestling coach Paul Nelson. "If we finish first that's fine, if we don't win a match but wrestle our best that's fine. If we win but don't do our best I'm not ok with that. As long as we can look each other in the eye and say man-to-man to the other person that you did your best, whatever the result is, I'm ok with that."
Even though the matches take place on the same size mat, it is not going to be their typical wrestling match. Making this different is the fact that well will be several hundred fans cheering and as many as 10 mats on the floor at any given time creating an atmosphere only one person, Zack Jenkins (152-pound division), has experienced.
"This is going to be a new experience for these kids. I'm happy for my seniors to get to experience this because they've gone three years without qualifying. Now their last chance in high school they get to go. I couldn't be happier for those kids," said Nelson.
"We just have to keep them focused. We have to stay on them and make sure they don't get caught up in the whole aura of what everything is. He (Jenkins) knows what the deal is so I'm going to have to rely on him to take the lead and walk the kids through it."
Aside from Jenkins, Nelson is also looking for Jeremy Fuller (182) and Jose Rivera (145) to step up and lead the team on the mat. While having a coach there to tell the kids what to do and what to expect is good and sometimes necessary, Nelson feels that for a team to truly succeed some of that leadership is going to have to come from the wrestlers themselves.
"They're going to have to step up. It's one thing if I tell the kids what to expect, it's another if it comes from the kids. Like Saturday (area duals), they took the lead from each other. They didn't have to look at me," said Nelson.
Newton will start their day on Friday at 10:15 a.m. against No. 2 seed Camden County. A win by Newton would put the Rams back on the at 3:30 against the winner of the Roswell/Lassiter match. A loss would have Newton wresting the loser of the Roswell/Lassiter match at 7 p.m.
Also wrestling for the Rams are Jamontavious Belcher (106), Brady Shivers (113), Kameron Wallace (120), Skyler Crawford (126), Tyler Head (132), Matt Torres (138), Nnamdi Onekwuluje (160), Dale Warren (170), AJ Palomino (195), Trestuun Willis (220) and Javan Gant (285).
"We are the best conditioned team out of anybody that we've faced," said Nelson. "We've stepped up our conditioning in the past few weeks. After the first round, everybody that we saw was gasping and sucking win but our kids were fine. I told them that after the first match."