A triumvirate of Villa Rica High School grapplers will get the chance to prove themselves on the state's grandest stage this week.
Tripp Sauls (106), Aaron Brown (160) and Tyler Cohran (220) are heading down to the Macon Centreplex on Thursday to battle it out with the state's best at the GHSA Traditional State Wrestling Championships.
This is new terrain for the Wildcat competitors, as all three have qualified for state for the very first time in their respective prep careers. The experience will also be new for first-year VR head coach Sumner Ellis, who is ecstatic about his guy's getting this opportunity to compete in the Class AAAAA bracket.
"They're all excited," Ellis said before practice on Tuesday. "Tyler was an alternate last year, but as far as going in and competing, this is their first experience at state."
Perhaps no one is looking forward to this moment more than the senior Brown, who qualified with a fifth-place finish at last weekend's AAAAA West Sectional at Buford. This moment has been a long time in the making for the VR veteran and he's ready to seize it.
"This is my last year, so I want to go out with a bang," Brown said. "My last couple of seasons weren't that great with me being an underclassmen. But now that I'm a senior going to state, it makes everything worth it."
Peaking at the right exact moment, Ellis is sticking to what got his guys to this point, as far as their week of preparation is concerned. It's about doing what they've been doing for months now while making sure that they stay in shape for the most important tournament of the year.
"A lot of what we're working on this week is just cleaning up little things for us. We're not trying to do anything totally different," Ellis said. "Keep it simple, but also keep it tough and continue to work on our conditioning. It worked for us at sectional and that's what we're sticking with this week."
Not letting the gravity of the event overwhelm him is Cohran, who finished fifth at last week's sectional to qualify. When he gets on the mat this Thursday, it will be just another hill for him to climb.
"We're trying to stay focused through the whole week and take on any challenge like we always have," Cohran said.
Also stepping into the spotlight eager for a state medal is Sauls, who came away with a third-place finish in his respective weight class at sectionals. He's already scouted out some of his foes from across the state and accepts the challenge head on.
"I'm looking forward to the people that I have to wrestle," Sauls said. "My bracket is good and it's going to be a good time."
The Wildcats will make the two-hour drive down to Macon early Thursday morning where they will weigh-in at 10 a.m. before the first round officially gets underway at noon. It's been a long journey for the Wildcat trio this season and they're ready to show the state that they can take down anyone.
"It's just like any other tournament," said Brown. "Just go in with the mindset that you're going to beat the guy that you're going against."