Carson Fields and Travis Sheehy have always dreamed of winning a high school wrestling state championship.
That's why both wrestlers are a little nervous this week.
They are two of the most accomplished wrestlers in Gwinnett County over the last four years. Neither has won a state title. They both know this is their last chance to fulfill part of their childhood dreams and join a prestigious group of champions.
"It's a lot of pressure," Sheehy said. "Every time I think about it I get all worked up and nervous about it. It's my last chance and I'm going to leave it all on the mat and not have any regrets."
The duo will have the luxury of wrestling in their own backyard at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The Class AAAAA tournament begins today and concludes Saturday with the finals at 7 p.m., where Fields and Sheehy hope to finally win state in front of 9,000 fans.
"I'm nervous as crap. It's just I know I've put in all the work," Fields said. "Now it's just a matter of taking care of your weight, being in the right shape and just being ready."
Fields and Sheehy have won numerous tournaments over the last four years. Fields is a three-time county champion, two-time area champion and finished second at state as a sophomore for Parkview.
Sheehy has won county and area twice and placed second at state the last two years at North Gwinnett.
The only thing missing from either wrestler's resume is a state championship.
"I really haven't thought about it at all until now," Fields said. "It's coming down to this week and the only thing missing is a state title. I really want to win it. No matter what happens in state, I know I've prepared for it."
"I've always wanted to win state," Sheehy said. "I actually wanted to win it twice, but it's been sort of elusive for me. I've really put a lot of things on hold in my life to pursue wrestling."
Both wrestlers have had interesting journeys at the state meet.
As a freshman, Fields cracked a rib the week of the state tournament, but finished sixth in the state. When he was a sophomore, he
didn't make weight on the final weigh in and had to forfeit his state championship match.
That summer he won the Greco Roman national title at the prestigious national tournament in Fargo, N.D. He was just the fourth Georgian ever to accomplish the feat.
It looked like Fields was well on his way to winning state last year as a junior.
He was 38-1 until he injured his right shoulder, which required surgery, and missed the state meet.
"I'm not going to sound cocky, but I would have won," Fields said. "I don't have any doubt."
Fields easily beat both of last year's state finalists during the regular season that year. But he didn't beat them when it mattered and he still hasn't won a state championship despite all of his success.
"It's pretty rare to be a national champion and not be a state champion," Parkview coach Tom Beuglas said. "He's had more adversity than anyone I've seen."
Fields is 59-2 this year with one of those losses coming out of state at the Oviedo, Fla., tournament. The other was for an illegal slam against a Jefferson wrestler. Fields has won seven of the eight tournaments he's wrestled this year and placed second at Oviedo.
His top competition at state this week in the 135-pound weight class will be Walton's Alex Holloway, who was an All-American at the national tournament Fields won two years ago. Fields should face him in the semifinals and possibly Collins Hill's Joel Smith in the championship. Fields beat Smith in the finals of the county tournament.
"It was one of my goals growing up to win a state title in high school, be an All-American and wrestle in college," Fields said. "If I win this, it will be the start of a lot of great things."
Fields will wrestle next season at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, one of the top wrestling programs in the South.
"Hopefully, he can put it all together," Beuglas said. "I hope it works out and he can win it."
For Sheehy, he couldn't have had any worse luck at state.
As a sophomore, he reached the state finals for the first time and his inexperience on the big stage showed. Sheehy barely broke a sweat before he was pinned by Parkview's Jesse Miller in 15 seconds.
Then last year it looked like Sheehy was the top guy in the 152-pound weight class. But near the end of the season Union Grove's Carrington Banks moved up a weight class. The senior defeated Sheehy 14-6 to become a four-time state champion.
"He's wrestled the best kids in the state the last two years in Jesse Miller and Carrington Banks," North Gwinnett coach Steve Hassenger said.
"It's tough. It's been a disaster," Sheehy said. "To be in the finals as a sophomore was more than I expected. Last year, I was projected to win and Carrington Banks bumped up. Both years have been really disappointing and I'm proud of what I've accomplished, but this is the year I really need to win it."
It's not the first time Hassenger has been in the situation with one of his wrestlers being a two-time runner-up. When he coached at Shiloh in the late 1990s, Justin Musarra was a two-time state runner-up before winning it his senior season.
"I've coached a couple of guys that didn't have a chance, but somehow they got it done," Hassenger said. "I want him to win because he's worked so hard."
Sheehy holds a 52-2 record this year with one of those losses coming to Collins Hill's Taylor Knapp early in the season. Knapp is a defending state champion and is favored to repeat at 145 pounds. The other loss came out of state at the Hewitt-Trussville Invitational in Alabama.
Sheehy has a career record of 222-18 with 144 pins, which are North Gwinnett records.
His road to the state finals won't be easy this year. Sheehy will likely face Banks' little brother Bradley in the quarterfinals and Centennial's Andrew Sills in the semis. An Area 7 rematch with Peachtree Ridge's Matt Chapman, who Sheehy has beaten twice this season, is possible in the state finals.
While not winning a state title wouldn't mean that either wrestler's season or career is a failure, it would be an amazing reward - the ultimate feeling of having your hand raised after years of hard work.
"It would not be a failure," Sheehy said. "I would be proud of what I've accomplished. I would definitely be disappointed if I didn't win it, but I won't let that happen."