SUWANEE - If you were not paying attention at last year's traditional state tournament, you probably missed Travis Sheehy's state finals match.
Parkview's Jesse Miller executed a textbook fireman's carry, taking Sheehy to his back and pinning the North Gwinnett wrestler in 15
Just like that, the one moment Sheehy had been waiting for since he began wrestling in elementary school was over.
"He was upset he didn't wrestle better in the finals. Jesse caught him quick and if it had been a whole match who knows what the score would have been," North Gwinnett coach Steve Hassenger said.
"Afterwards, he was like 'What happened?' It was over before he could even get a sweat going. It was just one of those things that happens."
Getting pinned can be embarrassing, but to get pinned that quickly in front of thousands of people in the state finals only made it worse. Afterward, Sheehy took about three weeks off from wrestling, reflecting on the season and the state finals before he re-dedicated himself.
"It's really been motivational as far as I was really upset about it for a while and really didn't want to have anything to do with wrestling," Sheehy said. "After it sunk in it made me want to push even more. I wanted to do better and not let it happen again."
After placing second at county, area and state last year, Sheehy has been on a tear this season. The junior has won three tournaments, including a Gwinnett County title. He became North's all-time winningest wrestler two weeks ago when he won his 151st match and now holds a 160-15 career record. He's a favorite to win the 152-pound Area 7 title this weekend at North Gwinnett and is a state title contender next week.
Since that loss in the state finals, Sheehy has compiled a 54-1 record. His only loss was in the Hewitt/Trussville Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., where he was pinned by nationally ranked Chase Cuthbertson in the finals.
This season Sheehy has devoted all of his time to wrestling. He practices five days a week with the team, goes to the gym to either work out or run and spends at least two days a week at the Wrestling Academy, which is owned by former Shiloh wrestler Dustin Kawa.
Sheehy credits working with Kawa, a four-time NCAA national qualifier at NC State, for a lot of his success this season.
"He has helped me be a lot quicker, a lot less sloppy," said Sheehy. "He's worked on me not exposing my back as much. Just little things that tighten me up and make me a lot better."
Hassenger sees a lot of similarities in Sheehy and Kawa. He coached Kawa while at Shiloh in the late 1990s.
"There's a lot of similarities between him and the guy he's training with," Hassenger said. "Dustin was better on his feet, but he's better on top than Dustin was and they are both similar on the bottom. They both move until they score and they are out within seconds."
The major difference between the two is Kawa has three state titles and Sheehy is still working toward his first.
"All my life I've wanted to be a state champion," Sheehy said. "It's always been my dream since I was a little kid to win a state title and actually it's always been my dream to win two. So this is the year to really step it up if I want to win two."
Sheehy is one of the toughest wrestlers Hassenger has coached in his 25-plus years as a wrestling head coach. He does not recall Sheehy ever missing a match. This season he has wrestled sick and hurt, including once with stitches in his head.
"Some people have him as the favorite (for state) mostly because of his style," Hassenger said. "He's relentless. He doesn't really have any holes in his lineup. He can move well from the bottom, nobody can ride him, he's relentless on top."
If Sheehy were to win state next week, he would be the first North Gwinnett wrestler to do so since Rodney Potter won in 1993.
"I don't want to overlook anybody," Sheehy said. "Cockiness can really kill somebody in a wrestling match. Any little mistake can slip up and change a match especially after last year. It only takes one mistake to get pinned and it's over."