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High school wrestling: Flowery Branch's Seth Larson looking to add to dynamic career as he chases his third state championship
Seth Larson
Flowery Branch sophomore Seth Larson wins the 160-pound state wrestling title for Class 4A on Feb. 11, 2022 in Macon. Photo by Amber Cloy For The Times

Seth Larson has never been one to back down when an obstacle or some sort of adjustment or change has been put in his path.

And the Flowery Branch junior isn’t about to start doing so now with the 2022-23 high school wrestling season now underway.

After winning Class 4A individual state championships his first two varsity seasons at 145 and 160 pounds respectively, Larson is once again looking in good position to challenge for the top of the podium at the state meet.

However, the task this time around will be a bit different in several ways.

But first-year Flowery Branch coach Brett Clark is certain that none of those differences will bother the Falcons star grappler.

“Seth, he rolls with everything,” Clark said. “He rolls with the punches. Whatever they throw at him, he rolls with it. He’s OK.”

Larson has been more than just OK in his first two high school seasons, rolling up a combined 66-3 record to go with the two state titles.

As mentioned, a few of the circumstances surrounding his quest for a three-peat as a state champ are somewhat different this season, most notably a tweak in the competition weight classes, especially in the middle weights.

But as Larson points out, those changes could actually benefit him.

“The weight classes (have) actually changed in Georgia (this season),” Larson said. “It’s 157 (pounds) or 165 (this year), and I’m going to wrestle at 157. So I’m not really cutting (a lot of) weight, especially for high school season. There’s no real point of cutting weight that much.

“Just being able to maintain my (natural) body weight at a healthy weight and being able to practice a 100 percent (is important). There are kids who have cut like 10 pounds a week who haven’t been able to give their full potential at practice. So me being able to be at a healthy and natural weight, it’s allowing me to practice better throughout the week.”

Whichever weight Larson wrestles at this season, he will also be looking at some different opponents across the mat from him throughout some of the most important meets.

Part of it is the natural attrition caused by graduated seniors, while Flowery Branch moving up in classification to 5A will also give him a new slate of foes.

But as with the change in weight classes, Larson is looking forward to the challenge.

“If last year’s kids were in this year’s division, it would’ve been a big deal,” Larson said. “There’s a lot of seniors that graduated (last year) from 5A. So there’s not going to be much of a change (in the level of competition) this year. Maybe it’s a little tougher, but I don’t think it’s really going to affect anything as (far) as state goes.

“Last year in 5A, there was a kid in my weight class (Woodland-Cartersville’s Caleb Henson, who is now at Virginia Tech) who was (ranked) No. 1 in the country. He’s graduated now. There’s a kid from Cambridge (defending Class 6A state 145-pound champion Cullen Kane) who has (signed with) North Carolina. I don’t know what weight class he’s wrestling at, but he’s probably going to be in my weight class. He’s good, and there are definitely kids out there who are making me work harder and push myself.”

Of course, as a two-time state champion, every in-state opponent Larson faces this year will be looking to push him hard.

But he says he is ready for that challenge, as well.

“There’s a big target on my back now, especially since I’ve won (state) twice and I’m a junior,” Larson said. “Everybody’s going to be coming for me and trying to beat me. So there’s definitely always that target on my back.”

Larson has already been good at showing how well he can adjust to changing conditions throughout his wrestling career.

In addition to following up his 2021 NHCSA national folkstyle championship with a national runner-up finish this summer, he also dipped his toe into the freestyle national tournament for the first time for Team Georgia at the 2022 USMC/USAW Junior and Cadet Championships.

He finished a respectable 5-2 and barely missed placing in that tournament, despite that style of wrestling being new to him.

And Larson figures the experience will help him in a similar manner to how starting his high school career as high as 145 pounds has helped him become one of the state’s top middleweights.

“Freshman year, it was all older kids, especially being at 145,” Larson recalled. “That’s not really like a freshman weight class. Usually, it’s more of a junior (or) senior weight class, so I was dealing with that and I just got used to that.

“It made me a lot better. I was having to deal with the strength of older kids, so it definitely made me a better wrestler. And they’ve been (competing on the high school level) for four years and with me coming in just my first year.”

Larson’s ability to make such adjustments and his determination to continue to improve is what Clark, who came from California to Georgia last year to coach at Discovery High School in Gwinnett County, values most about him.

In fact they were big factors in him jumping at the chance to come to Flowery Branch once the head coaching job came opening earlier this year.

“My son was a freshman last year at Discovery, and we trained with (Larson) at the club,” Clark recalled. “So when I had the opportunity to come here, I was like ‘Man, we need to go over (there).’ … I think Seth’s a hard worker. He’s a gamer. There’s no down time for him. He’s always trying to get better.

“I think he’s the whole package. He can score on his feet. He can score on top. He can be on bottom. He’s got it all. He’s the complete package. He’s working to improve his game every day.”

Likewise, Larson is excited about the benefits he and the rest of his Flowery Branch teammates will gain from Clark’s coaching as they try to not only improve individually, but also as a team to challenge for a spot in the Class 5A state duals postseason.

“He’s been really good for us,” Larson, who is already attracting interest from college programs like Campbell, Princeton and Northern Iowa, said of Clark. “(He’s brought) a lot of experience about wrestling. I mean, he’s been wrestling his whole life, so he knows it really well. And just being a good coach for the other kids, too. He has the right connections, so he’s gotten us into a lot of (competitive) tournaments around the country.”

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