Bandys senior Jake Nelson knew he'd win the state championship last season. That is to say he knew what he had to do to win.
"I got a takedown in the first period, with five seconds left," said Nelson. "I knew if I didn't get a takedown, I wouldn't win. Once I got it I knew I would."
Nelson, then a junior at North Lincoln High, took the match 3-0 to be crowned the 130-pound state champion.
"That finals match was pretty tough," Nelson recalled.
But so is he.
As a sophomore, Nelson was one of only two state qualifiers. Last year he went 40-1 on his way to the state title.
He might have been poised to defend his title at North Lincoln, but fate had another idea.
Nelson lived in Sherrills Ford, but was able to go to North Lincoln because his mother was a teacher there. When she quit this past summer, Nelson transferred to Bandys.
Trojans head coach Sean McIntosh was happy to see him.
"He wrestled a couple of our guys last year and beat them," said McIntosh. "His technical ability is real good and he has great mat conditioning. He's a great addition."
Nelson, who is the No.1-ranked 2A 130-pounder in the state according to retrorankings.com, played football as an underclassman at North Lincoln to stay in shape, but wrestling is his No.1 sport. Though he's not an overly hyped or a loud wrestler, Nelson is very determined.
"He's extremely self-disciplined," said McIntosh. "He hasn't wrestled long, but he's taped a lot of his own matches; watched himself, and taught himself. Some guys like that are hard to get through to, but he's still humble enough to take instruction."
Nelson spars with one of the Trojans' only other seniors, Thomas Lundsford.
One of three athletes to qualify for states last year from Bandys, Lundsford, also a Catawba Valley all-conference soccer player, took third in the 125-pound division.
Nelson joins a team with a lot of potential.
But the Trojans are also a team with a number of injuries. Junior 112-pounder Jarrett Henson hurt his shoulder. Don Parisi is 5-0 in the 103-pound class, but just returned to competition Dec. 17. Freshman Jesse Oliver is off to a 10-3 start in the 119-pound class, but hurt his back and will be out awhile. At the WRAL Invitational at Athens Drive High in Raleigh on Dec. 17-18, junior Peter Giruad dislocated his elbow while wrestling in the 189-pound weight class.
"We're 12-3 right now," said McIntosh. "We're doing decent considering we're filling in with a number of JV wrestlers. We're trying to stay positive and get through the injuries."
The Trojans have a very tough schedule. They wrestle 4A state champs Parkland, they invited South Carolina powerhouse Rock Hill to their invitational and they faced over 40 teams, including the top programs from Georgia and Wisconsin at the WRAL Invitational.
"It's tougher than the state tourney," said McIntosh.
The idea is to have his athletes competing against strong opponents, so they will be ready in February.
"We want to be the conference champions, so we can get a decent seed in states," said McIntosh. "We only had three state qualifiers last season, I think we'll have at least three more this year. Jake and Thomas could be state champs if they work hard."
There are no holiday breaks for this squad. After Raleigh, the Trojans faced Hopewell, Vance and Kings Mountain on Dec. 21, then headed to Chapel Hill for the Tiger Holiday Classic on Dec. 28- 29.
"We are just taking it one day at a time, one match at a time, and we'll see what happens," said McIntosh.
For Nelson, who started the year 20-2, the added competition is welcomed.
"It was good to go from one program to another," he said. "I love the different drill partners at Bandys, they're making me stronger."
There's no guarantee Nelson will win another state title, but he likes his chances at Bandys.
"It would have been harder to repeat at North Lincoln," said Nelson. "There aren't as many drill partners; it would have been harder to stay in as good shape. I'm looking forward to the state (tournament)."