Published Thursday, January 03, 2013
By DOUG GORMAN
Back in November, Newnan senior wrestler Nathan McGaha thought his high school wrestling career might be over.
A knee injury sidelined the 132-pounder and left plenty of uncertainty as the Cougars tried to fill a void in their lineup.
Thanks to a scope of his knee, McGaha returned to the mats within weeks and now his focus has turned to earning a spot at the Class AAAAAA state tournament later this winter.
The only reminder of his past injury is a knee brace he wears in each match.
"It was so hard being away from the mat," McGaha said. "I love wrestling so much, I just knew I had to work hard to get back."
McGaha and his teammates rolled out the wrestling mats Tuesday night at home with three matches, beating McIntosh 56-16, and losing to Whitewater 66-28 and Stephenson 42-30.
McGaha had a solid night, going 2-1 with one pin in the opening match against McIntosh has he continues his rapid recovery from the injury that sidelined him for a month.
Wednesday's wrestling was a tune up for the Cougars as they get ready for Saturday's Area 3-AAAAAA Duals at Douglas County.
The top two teams advance to next week's State Duals at the Macon Coliseum.
"We feel like we have a pretty good chance," said Newnan head coach Tom Everett. "It will probably come down to three teams. Us, East Coweta, and Douglas County. One pretty good team is going to stay home."
It didn't take long for the the McGaha to show he is again healthy.
The veteran wrestler made a strong statement upon his return to the mats last week with a second-place performance at the LaGrange High School tournament.
"I may not be 100 percent, but I am getting three," he said.
Despite his second-place finish, McGaha wanted to do better.
"It was good to get back on the mat and just wrestle," he said. "Everybody was trying to convince me I did well. I am such a competitor, I just want to win every time I get out there."
Everett knew the fire and determination was back for McGaha after seeing the disappointment in his wrestler's eyes with the second-place performance.
"He was upset," said Everett. "I tried to tell to him considering where he had been, this was a great performance. He just wanted to win."
Two other Newnan wrestlers had medal performances in LaGrange. Andrew Sowerbrower took second at 120 pounds and freshman Jason Moore placed third in the 145-pound division.
Everett is convinced McGaha is as good as new.
"He is wrestling hard again," said the Newnan coach. "You can tell he is glad to be back out there."
Regardless of whether the Cougars make it to state duals, there is still nearly a month left in the wresting season, and McGaha is determined to make it to the traditional state tournament.
"I have never been to state so I feel like I have a good chance this time," he said.
There is also his wrestling future at the college level.
McGaha is getting some offers from programs such as Truett-McConnell and Pembroke University.
It's been a fun ride for McGaha the past four years as he has helped Newnan lay a strong foundation on the wrestling mat.
"When I first came out for wresting we didn't even have enough wrestlers to go through all the drills. Now we have about 60 wrestlers counting on jayvee program, and a great group of coaches," he said.
At this weekend's Area Duals, the Cougar will wrestle five times against Langston Hughes, Tri-Cities, Douglas County, Westlake, and rival East Coweta.
The Area Duals could come down to a shootout between the Cougars and East Coweta.
At the county tri-meet last month, Newnan and East Coweta battled to a 39-all tie.
In Wednesday's tune-up for the duals, Sourbrower (120-pounds), Max Davis (145) and Josh Coffman (285) joined McGaha with pins.
Newnan will also count heavily on Eric Shea (152), William Langley (195) and Christian Shellabarger (220) at this week's Area duals.
Shea, Langley and Shellabarger each earned all-county honors.
Shea put together an 8-1 decision Wednesday against McIntosh.
In several of Wednesday's matches, Everett tweaked his lineup getting some younger wrestlers time on the mat.
In addition to Moore, Newnan also got some solid performances from Tyler Vermilya (170).
"We can't just rely on senior wrestlers," Everett said. "We have to count on everybody to step in."