Dalton Battle wasn’t nervous about wrestling for his 200th career win, but the North Hall senior was antsy to get the job done.
It was mid-January, and the Trojans were going up against Lumpkin County in the Area 7-3A tournament at Cherokee Bluff. Battle knew he hit No. 199 in his previous bout, and he didn’t want to waste any time making it 200, so he didn’t.
Battle pinned his opponent early in the first round, reaching yet another career milestone at North Hall.
“I had to get it done,” he said. “Solidify that 200th win quick.”
Battle still has the traditional state meet to compete in, where he will attempt to defend the state title he won last season, but even before that final meet he has already accomplished more than most to have come before him.
In addition to his individual title, Battle has been a part of three different state duals championship teams, including this year’s squad that defeated Gilmer last weekend to defend its Class 3A championship.
He’s also a perfect 31-0 so far this season, and hopes to make it 37-0 by the end of the year.
It’s been quite the run for Battle, who has been wrestling competitively since he was just 6 years old.
Battle’s career began when he was playing Junior Trojans Football and Matt Whitmire, one of the team’s coaches and the Director of Youth Operations for North Hall wrestling, recommended that Battle and his teammates get in on wrestling. Whitmire’s contagious energy made the suggestion intriguing to Battle.
“Coach Matt has got a big old beard and he’s all crazy, and he was all amped up about wrestling,” he said. “He was the one who got me and really this whole group of seniors into it.”
By the time he was 10, Battle knew that wrestling was the sport he wanted to focus on.
At the time, he was also playing basketball, baseball and football, but there was nothing he enjoyed more than wrestling.
“I guess I like that it’s one-on-one; the better guy is going to win,” he said. “It’s all on you, and you can’t blame it on the team.”
In middle school, Battle cut his teeth going up against Trojans high school wrestlers in practice as a challenge.
He remembers going up against Michael Carew, a two-time state champion who was six years Battle’s senior, over and over again.
“Obviously he would beat me up pretty good,” Battle said. “But that was my first couple of memories with high school, just going up there and getting beaten up by the older guys.”
And while a less-resilient eighth grader may have been disheartened by the constant defeat, Battle never minded it.
“Middle school to high school is a big jump,” he said. “Wrestling with those guys is just a lot different. The intensity of high school is just a lot different. So it was nice to get in there and get beat up on. I learned.”
That much has become apparent.
Outside of his early experience wrestling against high schoolers, Battle credits the intensity of the North Hall wrestling program for his and the team’s success over the last four years.
He said he believes the Trojans team does more running than any other program in the state.
“It’s not fun stuff,” he added. “But it pays off.”
Up next for Battle, he hopes to win another state title and finish off his undefeated season. After that, he will wrestle on scholarship at Appalachian State.
Battle said that because every college senior earned an extra year of eligibility, due to COVID-19, earning a full scholarship was all but impossible, but his incentive-laden scholarship at App State allows him to earn more money toward school, the more winning he does.
And so far in his career, winning has not been a problem.
As he moves on from the high school to college level, Battle said he’s not focusing on any specific individual goals. He’s simply planning to keep on grinding at the sport like he has since the very beginning.
“I want to be the best I can be,” he said. “I don’t know if that means All-American or what, but just be the best wrestler I can be.”