Don’t get Michael Carew wrong. He enjoys hanging out with several of his friends and fellow wrestlers from Buford and surrounding schools throughout the area.
But once he’s in his element, all bets are off.
“We’re all buddies, we know that,” Carew said Monday night. “But once we step on the mat, we’re not buddies anymore.”
That dynamic made North Hall’s recent victory in the Area 8-AAAA duals, including a thrilling upset win over defending state champion Buford, all the more satisfying for the junior.
Carew (145 pounds) was one of six Trojans who went undefeated against talent from across the area, including the top-seeded Wolves.
The junior, a three-time Hall County champion, has hopes of becoming a state champion this spring. Carew came up just short in the final last year against two-time state champion and Buford senior Braden Hartley, when the two teams were both in Class AAA.
The two were teammates at their respective club team, Compound Wrestling, where Carew still trains after school when he can.
“With keeping my grades up, I haven’t been able to go as much,” said Carew, “but before, I would go to every single high school practice, then drive down to Buford and wrestle for two more hours after that.”
The junior has memories of wrestling ever since first grade and has been attending club practices since fifth grade. Since getting to high school, he’s been fully focused on his high school career, which has exceeded expectations. Carew has won a Hall County individual title in three different weight classes and finished his sophomore year with a 49-9 record.
He’s currently 34-4, with the team dual wrestling state final later this week at the Macon Coliseum. Weigh-ins begin on Thursday. Tickets are $7 for Thursday and $10 a day for Friday and Saturday. A three-day tournament pass is available for $24.
Meanwhile, Carew has his sights set on the traditional wrestling sectionals on the first weekend of February, where he’ll start to meet stronger competition en route to his goal of becoming a state champion.
“Since we moved to (Class AAAA), I’m not as aware as I used to be of the competition, but around state time, it’ll be the toughest that it can be,” he said. “There were a couple good guys we met in Area, but state is the toughest that I’ll see.”
Carew wants to continue his wrestling career at the collegiate level, preferably with Appalachian State. He’d like to keep working with Frank Hickman, a former assistant coach at Compound Wrestling who recently joined the Mountaineers for the 2014-15 season.
Carew has worked with many coaches and mentors throughout his career, with first-year Trojan head coach Stuart Cunningham as the most recent. But the junior said he’s learned the value of being “Trojan tough” on the mat from Cunningham. Win or lose, Carew said he’s felt motivated to never give up during a match.
Carew’s teammates have taken notice. During last weekend’s Area duals, junior varsity stand-in Pablo Chavarria (170) pinned his Buford opponent to close his match and earn a 36-34 win over Buford after the Trojans were down by four. Chavarria was taking the place of a varsity teammate who couldn’t compete.
“He came out and gave him his best effort,” said Carew. “That’s when Trojan tough comes in. You’ve just got to grab the opportunity and go.”
And if Carew faces another Buford opponent on the way to a state title opportunity, he’ll know what to turn to.
“We can have fun before the match, I’ll talk to them and have fun,” he said. “But when it’s dual time, my team is more important than anything else.”