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High school wrestling: East Hall's Caleb Pruitt credits faith, family for perfect season and state championship
East Hall's Caleb Pruitt celebrates at the end of his state championship match Feb. 18, 2023 in Macon. Photo courtesy Caleb Pruitt

It took a while for the magnitude of the moment to resonate with East Hall’s Caleb Pruitt.

After spending his senior season ranked either No. 1 or 2 in an all-classification poll  for heavyweight wrestlers, Pruitt finished his career for the Vikings with a hard-fought 4-3 win by decision against Lovett’s Christian Bell during the Class 4A title bout Feb. 17 in Macon.

However, a slew of celebratory pictures after winning it all, along with standing atop the podium were a bit of a blur for Pruitt, who finished his senior campaign with an astounding 59-0 mark.

“It was weird, at first,” Pruitt said. “The emotions didn’t really hit until later, when I got back to the hotel.”

But now it’s all crystal clear for one of the most accomplished grapplers in East Hall history.

A dream more than a decade in the making came to fruition, thanks to years of diligent work in wrestling, as well as utilizing the skills learned as a standout offensive lineman for the Vikings’ football program.

And, for Pruitt, his success is a direct reflection of his faith and the unwavering support of his family.

“I want to give all the glory to God,” Pruitt said. “My family has always been there for me, encouraging me to keep God first.”

In addition to winning the state championship, his wrestling coach feels like the most impressive thing is the fact that Pruitt never had a bad match this season.

“Going undefeated after wrestling more than 50 matches, never having a slipup, is almost unheard of,” Vikings coach Ken Stoudenmire said.

All of Pruitt’s success is a testament to the fact that hard work pays off.

In 2022, Pruitt was starting center on the offensive line in football, and he was the ‘leader of the team,’ Vikings football coach Matt Turner said.

“Caleb’s a kid who does everything the right way,” Turner said. “We could see that he was going to have a special senior season. He works so hard at his craft. We’re beyond proud of him.”

And now that his prep career is finished, Pruitt is going to try to do both sports at the next level, adding he hopes to be able to sign with a college program in the ‘next few weeks.’

Pruitt received all the motivation he needed at the end of the 2022 wrestling season.

He finished last season as 3A state runner-up with a loss to one of the nation’s top heavyweight wrestlers, West Laurens’ Chase Horne, who now wrestles at N.C. State.

“That experience at state last year was motivation for Caleb to step up and be the man this season,” Stoudenmire added.

That helped light a fire for Pruitt to have the best senior season possible.

It started with a summer in the weight room, constantly working on building his total-body strength and using his football acumen to become a championship wrestler.

In fact, Pruitt said that his wrestling success wouldn’t be possible without the lessons and skills developed by playing football.

Playing football, the two-sport standout learned all the nuance that relates to both sports, including using leverage to his benefit, staying low and utilizing space to gain an edge over his opponent.

“Playing on the line and wrestling really go hand in hand,” Turner said.

Even though Pruitt hasn’t decided on a college yet, he already knows where he wants to be in another four years: right back at East Hall coaching the next generation.

That works well with Stoudenmire, who after 30 years in education, plans to retire by the time Pruitt gets his college degree.

East Hall’s wrestling coach feels like his senior standout has all the character traits and athletic-development knowledge to come back and become a prolific leader at Valhalla.

Future wrestlers at East Hall will certainly take heed the instruction and knowledge from one of the school’s only state championship wrestlers.

“Caleb’s a great kid and we’re extraordinarily proud of him,” said Stoudenmire.

This spring, Pruitt is trying his hand at baseball.

He’s doing so to spend more time with his younger brother Lukas, a freshman, before departing for college in the summer. 

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