Northwest wrestlers pin their way through state tournament


Photo submitted by Chris Garrison

Junior Chris Garrison wrestles his opponent in the state finals. Garrison won first place for the 170 pound weight class.

Hundreds of people fill the stands of Greensboro Coliseum. Mats cover the ground as wrestlers from all over North Carolina fight to be named the best. It’s the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 4A Individual Wrestling Tournament Championships.

This year, three Northwest wrestlers found their way into the state championship, senior George Cooke and juniors Shane Chavis and Chris Garrison.

“[My experience at states] was honestly really amazing,” Chavis said. “It was breathtaking how many people were there. It kinda made me nervous going out onto the mat and seeing all the people, but it was really fun.”

Chavis, who wrestled in the 120-pound weight class, placed sixth at the tournament. But the road to get there was not easy.

“I had to practice a lot to [make it to states] and I had to make it out of the region,” Chavis said. “I had to be top four in our region and I ended up placing second. It was a lot of work and a lot of hours put in.”

Garrison, who placed first in the 170-pound weight class, also recalls the work he had to put in to be a state champion.

“I’d run three miles every morning before school,” Garrison said. “I’d lift weights in weight training and then practice two to three hours every day if I wasn’t wrestling in a match.”

Cooke went into the tournament as a four seed, but after winning his first match and losing his second, he went into the loser’s bracket where he finished in sixth for the 182-pound weight class. Cooke notes what he had to sacrifice in order to make it as far as he did.

“When I started wrestling in seventh grade, I played football and lacrosse, and by my freshman year I had quit both of those to wrestle,” Cooke said. “I’ve [wrestled] year-round since freshman year. I would say it was all worth it for sure, I enjoyed it.”

Garrison went in as a number one seed but knew the competition would not be easy.

“I was going in at number one seed but there were a few kids that I thought would be pretty good,” Garrison said. “My first [match] I pinned a kid in 19 seconds, then in the second one, I pinned a kid in like 37 seconds. In semifinals it was 6-1 and I just let the kid up in the end, and then finals were 10-3.”

Garrison’s motto was to stay calm, and that calmness helped lead him to be the best in the state.

“I just tried to stay calm and wrestle my best,” Garrison said. “[The moment when I knew I’d won] was really cool, I looked back at the clock when I was on top of the kid and there was like 5 seconds left so I pushed him off and walked back and saw that time was up, then I looked at where all of my family was and just started yelling and then went and jumped on my coach. It was pretty cool.”

And to Garrison, winning is the best part of wrestling.

“[My favorite parts about wrestling] are the challenge and how hard it is and winning after working hard,” Garrison said.

Chavis agrees.

“My favorite part of wrestling is knowing that I can beat a dude that’s going out there to beat me and that I can come out on top just knowing that I dominated him,” Chavis said.

To Cooke, wrestling’s appeal comes from the individual and team aspects.

“[I enjoy] the fact that wrestling’s just a one-person thing, but there’s also a team aspect to it,” Cooke said. “There’s team points, but it mostly just comes down to you. I really enjoy that because I never really liked team sports because there was always blame shifting, and it would start fights on the team. I feel like in wrestling, the team is a lot closer because you can’t shift blame and you’re all there to help each other instead of always competing in practice like in football and lacrosse.”

Chavis also enjoys getting to be with the team.

“My favorite part of the season was probably being with my teammates and enjoying all the wins we got together,” Chavis said. “We won a lot of matches together and it was just fun.”

As a graduating senior, Cooke still seeks to remain involved in some form of wrestling.

“I’m probably gonna do jujitsu moving forward, you don’t get hurt as easily as in wrestling,” Cooke said.

Next year, Chavis looks to make his way back to states.

“I’m looking forward to placing higher, if not winning, at states next year,” Chavis said.

Garrison hopes to continue to uphold his title next year.

“This offseason I want to place in a national tournament, if not win one,” Garrison said. “And then my goal going back into the season next year is to either pin everyone or just walk all the way through states to two-time.”