Cabarrus

Friends push each other on the mat

Jay M. Robinson High School wrestlers Hamilton Jones and Garrison White have always been close.

When Jones was only 6 months old, his family moved into the Carriage Downs neighborhood in Concord across the street from the White family. Jones and White were only infants at the time, but they would soon be nearly inseparable as best friends and teammates.

"Garrison and I were pretty much joined at the hip growing up," Jones said. "We were always playing sports together, and we're very competitive with each other. Sometimes the rivalry between us got pretty heated, but we were always great friends for it."

Both White and Jones began wrestling seriously at Harris Road Middle School. White, who's six months older and a grade ahead of Jones, started first, but his friend followed the next year.

Both boys quickly excelled on the mat under the guidance of Harris Road Middle's wrestling coach Jim Tovornik. Tovornik also had both boys on his AAU team, now known as Team Cabarrus, where they refined their early wrestling skills "when they could barely crawl," he said.

"They both got better and have become great wrestlers at Robinson," said Tovornik. "I think a lot of that had to do with how they pushed each other on and off the mat."

Jones and White also became a one-two punch, wrestling in back-to-back weight classes. When Jones was in seventh grade, he wrestled at 83 pounds while White was at the 93-pound weight class. It has been like that - with White one weight class heavier - until this year, when Jones moved past White in weight.

White, a senior, now competes at 126 pounds; Jones, a junior, wrestles at 132 pounds.

They often pass each other as one finishes and the other starts his match, but they don't always have to say anything.

"It's hard to know exactly what to say to someone before a match," White said. "Sometimes, we say a few words, but most of the time it's an unspoken thing, a look, where we're both saying, 'Go out and get it done,' to each other."

Both White and Jones have had solid careers since arriving at Robinson.

White (41-0 heading into last weekend's regionals) is a four-time conference champion and has won more than 200 matches in his career, including two individual state championships in a row. The 17-year-old - who is the No. 1-ranked 126-pounder in 3A, according to retrorankings.com - was also named the South Piedmont Conference Wrestler of the Year this season.

Jones (29-7) has more than 100 wins, including a third-place state finish his freshman year and an SPC title last year. Jones, also 17, is the third-ranked 132-pounder in 3A.

The duo were also on the 2010 Robinson team that won the 3A state dual team championship.

Jones and White have led the Bulldogs to an 81-6 team record in the past three years.

A lot of their success has come as a result of working together. The duo have been regular practice partners at Robinson and Harris Road as well as in AAU and with Arrichion wrestling club.

As the end of another Robinson wrestling season approaches, both boys are aware that things will change next year, after White heads to Northwestern University this summer on an athletic and academic scholarship.

Jones hopes to follow in his friend's footsteps and earn a scholarship to either Air Force or Navy.

"Their relationship is going to change because of distance," said Andy Jones, Hamilton's dad. "But I think they are focused on enjoying the time they have left together in high school."

Both White and Jones say they hope that ends in state championships.

"Right now, our only focus is getting ready for states," White said.

Jones, who carpools to school every day with White, said this week's practices could be his toughest competition.

"Living right across the street, it's been a pretty convenient relationship," Jones said. "We're always competing, pushing each other to get better, and this week it gets even more intense. I wouldn't want it any other way."

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