James Carroll won 24 wrestling matches for Mountain Pointe this year, but he didn’t know it.
“I don’t remember how many matches I’ve won this year,” the Pride senior said, “but I do remember the ones that I’ve lost. I learn more from those.”
Carroll, who had a 24-3 record, and Thomas Gibson, 25-2 in dual meets, are likely the best prospects to win individual 5A-I state championships for the Pride this season.
“They are the heir-apparents to do well,” said Mountain Pointe coach Shannon Radford.
Those kinds of expectations don’t rattle Carroll any more than opponents on the mat.
“I really don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of upsets. Everyone goes through an upset sometime.”
When Carroll moved down to 125 pounds from the 130-pound division he was in last season his number of victories went up.
“I feel stronger this year, and I think you’re more competitive if you drop down,” he said.
Carroll started wrestling year-round when he was in the eighth grade and, with the exception of a football fling for a couple of years earlier in his high school career, he has devoted his energy to the sport.
“Football was good cross-training,” he said, “but I wanted to concentrate my time on wrestling. I think wrestling is tougher than football mentally. And physically. You have to deal with injuries, but unlike football, you don’t stop wrestling because of an injury. You have to keep going.”
Carroll has kept going since he started wrestling year-round.
He spent part of the summer in Fargo, N.D., and the hot months in an even hotter wrestling room in a training camp at Desert Vista.
“We sort of beat up each other there,” Carroll said.
That kind of experience pays off in high school matches and, he hopes, at the state tournament.
“After you practice for so long things sort of become second nature, and you don’t have to think about it,” he said. “Knowing that I can control the situation or that I can afford to give up a certain situation to win a match comes with doing it for a while.”
Carroll has also been around the wrestling scene long enough that he faces few surprises in the ring.
“I know most of the contenders in the state by now,” he said. “But you can’t rely on their moves. It’s more about what you do in practice than their style and what they’ve done all those years.”
Dropping down in weight by as little as 5 pounds makes a difference, Radford said.
“When you’re a littler guy it does anyway,” Radford said. “He was up a little in weight last year, but now he’s in the right weight class.”
Like most state athletic events that use seeding in the state tournaments, being a higher seed has its advantages.
“Seeding helps you because you usually don’t have to wrestle the best until later in a match,” Carroll said.
If he makes it through the sectional qualifying later this week, Carroll faces a day of matches from 10 in the morning through a final round that starts at 6 p.m. in the state tournament at Pinnacle High School in Paradise Valley.
“I like those matches,” Carroll said. “You’re wrestling for six minutes, then you have a couple of hours before you do it again. The break motivates me for the next match.”
And if Carroll continues through the bracket he won’t have to think about how many wins he has that day.