In the Forsyth County News sports department’s (brief) history of selecting a county wrestler-of-the-year, only Lambert and North Forsyth have produced honorees. Lambert’s Matthew Sheetz was a two-time winner (2014, 2015) and could have been a three-time winner if not for North’s Austin Thornton (2013). Both reached the finals of the GHSA Traditional Wrestling Tournament that year; Thornton just happened to do it with a torn ACL.
At midseason, the Longhorns and Raiders (in particular) again have the bulk of contenders for the award. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. They were the two teams from the county who qualified for the GHSA Team Wrestling Duals last season and had top-5 finishes at the state traditional tournament.
But there is plenty of season left for someone at Forsyth Central, South Forsyth or West Forsyth to prevent history from repeating itself.
Here are five wrestlers to watch the rest of the season:
CONNER CARROLL // North Forsyth
The junior is coming off a year in which he went 49-9 at 152 pounds and placed fourth in Class 6A at the state traditional tournament to help North finish second as a team at both the state duals and state traditional tournament.
Why Carroll: For one, he has the pedigree – his brother, Matt, is a former standout at North who now wrestles for Cumberland University. For another, he’s made the transition up two weight classes, to 170, with seemingly little difficulty, going 32-4 this season with 18 pins and three technical falls.
HUNTER JOLLY // West Forsyth
The Wolverines’ senior could be this year’s Jackson Bardall, the former North football player who also happened to wrestle, and do it well as he won the state title at 285 in Class 6A last season. Jolly actually entered last season’s state traditional tournament as the top seed but failed to place, finishing the year 37-10.
Why Jolly: Last season’s disappointing finish hasn’t seemed to faze Jolly. He’s currently 24-5 with 16 pins. Jolly knows what it takes to compete among the top contenders; he earned that top seed at last season’s state traditional tournament after winning the Class 6A East Sectional last season, after all.
ERIC KOHLINS // Lambert
Kohlins would have entered this season as arguably the favorite for wrestler-of-the-year if not for an injury that kept him out until recently. The senior was an area champion, state sectional champion and finished runner-up at 182 in Class 6A last season, losing to Archer standout Daniel Bullard, who now starts at N.C. State as a freshman.
Why Kohlins: For starters, there is no superstar like Bullard for Kohlins to contend with at 182 this season. But more important, Kohlins seems like he’s on a mission now that he’s wrestling again. He’s 14-0 since his return with two victories over defending state champs.
BRANTLEY LITTLE // North Forsyth
The junior is coming off a year in which he went 35-10 at 170 and qualified for state but didn’t place, and Little might have considered that somewhat disappointing after earning all-American status at preseason nationals before the season.
Why Little: Call this the breakout year for Little. Now splitting his time between 182 and 195, depending on how Raiders head coach Travis Jarrard wants to use him in duals, Little is 29-4 with 25 wins coming by pin.
PAUL WATKINS // North Forsyth
Watkins was one of two breakout freshman wrestlers in the county last season (the other being Abraham Perez at Forsyth Central) when he went 45-6 at 113 pounds, was the runner-up at area and state sectionals and then placed third in Class 6A at the state traditional tournament.
Why Watkins: Until recently, Watkins was in the midst of an impressive unbeaten streak to start the season. That’s over now, but still, he’s 29-2 with 16 pins and four technical falls wrestling at 120 pounds.
Others to watch: Andy Leggett, North Forsyth, 182; Sebastian Legarra, Forsyth Central, 220; Payton Mitchell, Lambert, 120; Sam Ranta, South Forsyth, 132.