North Oconee High School’s wrestling team has earned a reputation. They have earned the expectations and the right to be the hunted.
The Titans added to their reputation and their trophy case as they defeated Madison County High School to clinch their second-straight Region 8-4A championship.
The Titans felt it all season and felt it even more during Saturday’s Region 8-4A tournament. Sam Johnson, who won the title-clinching match, admits there is pressure that wasn’t there last season for the Titans. The Titans were coming off a couple of seasons in which they’d been nearly an afterthought in region.
They jumped to favorites last season with all of the seniors that had returned and a few new athletes that had joined the program. When the Titans had their breakout season last year, the team remembered the bad days.
The 2019-2020 edition of the Titans remember success. They expect to win and there is a pull at their psyche to not be the guy to let not live up to the high expectations that comes with success.
“It does puts some stress on a lot of our guys,” Johnson said. “We’re expected to win and we have to win. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I definitely felt it before my last match. I was like if I win this match and I pin my guy, we win the dual and we’re done. I think that just puts a lot of stress on us.”
The second straight region championship still brings joy and the perspective to each wrestler how far they have come in the last three years.
“It reminds me of all the times when we were the worst team in this region and now, with a lot of hard work and a lot of great coaching we’ve come a long way,” Johnson said. “That’s all I think about. We used to lose every dual in this region. Now, we’re on top.”
Despite the ever-growing list of accolades, the Titans are trying to adopt the mentality of the underdog. There has been an adjustment period for the Titans.
For more on this story, see the Jan. 16 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, go to oconeeenterprise.com or call (706) 769-5175.