Seniors ready for a shot at championship redemption
(To follow the Tigers at this year's state tournament on Twitter, follow The Mountain Press Sports Editor Jason Davis @jasondavispress)
For PFHS senior wrestlers Nate Croley, Caleb Poole, Joseph Dodgen, Riley Dowd and Trevor Reed, this weekend’s been a long time coming.
Every year since their freshman season, the Pigeon Forge Tigers wrestling team has made the state tournament, only to fall short of their ultimate goal — the state A/AA duals title.
It’s been great motivation this year for the five to give it their all in preparation for this weekend’s matches.
“We’ve come so close every year and lost. One match every year (made the difference),” Dodgen, a state-ranked 126-pounder, said. “When it comes down to us, I hope all of us have put in enough time this year, and I think we have. I think we’re ready to go.
“We’ve been there, we’re accustomed to the stress, and you get used to it, and hopefully we’ll do better.”
Nate Croley, who’s also state-ranked at 152, said he wants to put it all on the line, so there’s no lingering disappointment later.
“I don’t want to leave this, my senior year, with regrets,” Croley said. “I want to go out there, take my team, and lead them to a state championship title.”
Poole said he believes the pent-up frustration of losing the past three years has caused the Tigers to put out extra effort for another shot at the title this season.
“Everybody’s wrestling harder,” Poole said. “Since we’re a state championship (level) team, everybody’s working harder for it.”
While the team lost a strong group of seniors, this year’s senior class thinks this team is built to win.
“We lost those guys but, we also gained freshmen that are stepping in and filling the spots,” Reed said.
“And I think our weaker links (this season) are stronger than last years,” Dowd said.
Croley chimed in: “I think that’s one thing that in the past years that we didn’t have — everyone (this year) is experienced,”
“Nobody’s brand new,” Dodgen agreed. “Everyone’s been on the mat and knows, basically, what they’re getting into.”
“We use the past as motivation, but we don’t want to ponder on it too much,” Croley said.
“We’re looking toward every match (at the tournament), and there’s no looking back,” Dowd said.