Staff Photo: Jason Braverman GAC senior Zach Feurbach, who placed second last year in the state wresetling meet, is hoping to become the Spartans' first state champion.
On the wall of Greater Atlanta Christian's wrestling room is a list of the school's state placers.
For a program that's not even 20 years old, GAC has produced its fair share of tournament medalists.
There's just one spot on the wall that's still empty -- state champion.
GAC has never had a state champion wrestler.
The Spartans have produced eight runner-ups, including last year's second place finishes by Jared Hemmings and Zach Feuerbach. Hemmings has graduated, but Feuerbach returns hoping to become the school's first state champ.
"I hope to be in the gym again, walking down those stairs and the music is playing," Feuerbach said.
Feuerbach is off to a great start this year. The senior is 22-3 with 16 pins at 160 pounds.
"You can tell he loves it and wants to get out on the mat all the time," GAC head coach Jeff Harsh said. "He just has a passion for wrestling."
It almost seemed natural for Feuerbach to pick up wrestling. His father Kent wrestled in high school in Iowa, which is a hotbed for some of the sport's all-time greats.
"I've always had a knack for it, kind of a natural," Feuerbach said.
Feuerbach began wrestling in eighth grade and has been a four-year starter on the varsity. He qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore, but lost to the eventual state champion in the first round and was knocked out of the tournament.
His state tournament appearance was a little longer last season. Feuerbach reached the state finals at 160 pounds and lost to Toombs County's Kalin Wilhite 8-5.
"I think it helped him realize he can succeed at that level," Harsh said. "It's not just making it to state, but placing high."
Feuerbach's state finals appearance helped him put a greater emphasis on the sport. In addition to wrestling, Feuerbach is also a standout baseball player for GAC. In the past he would typically play baseball year-round. But this summer he decided to focus solely on wrestling. He attended team camps with GAC and helped them to the Militia Duals tournament championship. Feuerbach also competed in the prestigious Super 32, one of the toughest preseason tournaments in the South.
"I've seen a big turnaround," Harsh said. "Last year he worked hard. He really turned it on last year and peaked at the right time. I think losing in the finals has really given him a good focus."
Feuerbach is part of a talented senior class that guided GAC to its best season in school history last year. The Spartans were 21-8, which included a third-place finish at the state duals and 10th at the traditional state meet.
GAC also took eighth at the county meet, which is the highest finish ever for the program.
Feuerbach posted a 44-9 record on the way to his state runner-up finish. That taste of the state finals has fueled him to become the school's first state champion and fill that void on the team's wall of state placers.
"It would be a dream come true. It would be pretty cool," Feuerbach said.