Robinson wrestler looking to repeat as state champ

Jay M. Robinson's Garrison White vividly remembers pinning his opponent during what he refers to as the game of his life to win the 112-pound state wrestling championship in February.

"It didn't even hit me until five minutes after the match when I was up in the stands and I saw my parents," he said. "It's like when people say they have an 'out-of-body experience' - I hadn't known that feeling until that time."

White and his fellow Bulldogs capped off their season by winning the state dual championship, the school's first team state trophy.

"With the individual title, I was proud and excited for myself, but the team title meant a lot more because of all my teammates had gone through and how hard they had worked to achieve that goal," said White.

But the junior knows it's time to leave those championships in the past and focus on this season.

The Bulldogs lost three-time state champion Dominic Parisi, who is now at Appalachian State, among a few other state qualifiers, but the team returns a lot of talent, including four wrestlers who placed in the top five at states.

In addition to White, Hamilton Jones (third in the 103-pound class), Davante Andujar (third in 135) and Jake Eldridge (fifth in 145) also are back.

"We have a good foundation coming back," said Robinson coach Dave Parisi. "Three of those guys - Jake, Davante and Garrison - I see them at the top of the podium this year. I seriously think we have three state champions on our lineup this year."

White is also excited about what the other returners, such as Nathan Tesh and Patrick Oakley, and the newcomers have to offer.

"We have a lot of younger guys who are very good," he said. "We gained a lot of role players and I feel like they can step up. By the end of the year we'll have a strong team."

White is moving up two weight classes this year - to 125 pounds - in order to let his body gain a more natural weight.

"It'll be harder, but I think my body's starting to mature, so I can keep up strength-wise," he said. "I'm giving it my all in practice, so I think I'll be ready."

Parisi said White should do well in his new category because of his wrestling instincts.

"He combines a lot of hard work and intuition with some natural ability," said Parisi. "He's a natural scrappy guy, he seems to innately know the physics of wrestling - how to use his weight, how to compensate for things, how to use leverage."

White said his strategy again this year is to be aggressive on the mat.

"I like keeping the opponent on its heels," the 5-foot-5 wrestler said. "I feel uncomfortable if someone's controlling the match."

That approach and his work ethic have grown since White picked up wrestling after his dad pointed him to the sport in sixth grade.

"You can't get overpowered by someone bigger than you - it's all about your work ethic and how hard you want to give," said White. "You control how far you go in this sport."

White hopes to win another individual state title in his new weight class, but that's not everything that's important to him.

"I just want to progress as a wrestler as much as I can, so that I can be ready for my senior year and college," he said. "I also want to get my team as far as I can in states."

The 16-year-old also wants the Bulldogs to avenge their one-point SPC title loss to Mount Pleasant this year and win the conference.

"We want to get that back," said White. "We should win that and could go much farther than that."

Parisi knows that for White and the team to repeat, it will take a lot of dedication.

"We don't want to look back in February and say 'we should've worked harder,'" he said. "The guys are serious about being champions and leaving a mark."