The Woodward wrestling team swept the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class 4A team dual and traditional tournament titles this season, with the latter coming Feb. 15 in Macon.
At the traditional tourney, the War Eagles were led by senior Nick Masters, who won the 132-pound division for his fourth consecutive individual state title. He became only the 40th wrestler in GHSA history to win four individual state championships in a high school career.
“Watching Nick accomplish the goal he set for himself the day he started wrestling for me at Woodward was very special,” War Eagles head coach Jeff Ragan said. “Only a very select group of people become a four-time Georgia state champion. It took a lot of work to make a goal that difficult (dream) a reality.
“Fortunately, Nick is a special kid and can accomplish what he wants, when he puts his mind to something. I think that with a good group of teammates and coaches to help Nick stay focused on his future goals, he can accomplish some really special things at Princeton University and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.”
Masters joined the four-time GHSA champions list alongside fellow Woodward athletes John Stallings Jr. (1972-75) and Pete Fritts Jr. (1980-83).
“I knew that I would have the biggest target on my back heading into the state tournament, being the kid going for four straight titles,” Masters said. “My biggest goal was to go out, have fun and put on the biggest show for everybody one last time. I didn’t let the pressure get to me and act like the biggest man on campus because on any given day, any kid can beat me. I set my goals and told myself to treat every kid the same.”
Masters met C.J. Shadinger of Central (Carrollton) in the finals and earned the pin at the match’s 4-minute, 27-second mark to finish his senior season with a 59-2 record.
“I was trying to put up points and knew if I did that, it would force him to become desperate and look for something big,” Masters said. “I set up my last move and didn’t expect to walk into it but once it happened, that was it. There was a lot of relief and an emotional wash over me. I looked back when I was 6 years old and all of the pain, sweat and tears put into the sport. I was really proud of myself at that moment.”
After winning the team duals competition Jan. 18, the War Eagles brought home the traditional state championship for the second straight time and sixth overall in program history.
“It was an amazing experience because it’s always better with the team,” Masters said. “It’s not the dream of the individual but the group. We all work so hard for everything, and winning it as a team was special. We were more confident heading into the traditional tournament because we have some very heavy hitters in the lineup.”
Masters began wrestling when he was only 5. “I started playing different sports like baseball, football, soccer at a young age,” he said. “I liked wrestling because it felt natural and in my element. I’ve had goals like winning the Olympics and see them as big motivating factors to work towards.”
Masters lists American world champion David Taylor among his favorite wrestlers. He will continue his career at Princeton after recruitment from programs such as the U.S. Military Academy (Army), the U.S. Air Force Academy, Brown University, Columbia University, Stanford University and Ohio State University.
“I always wanted to do big things in education to prepare for when wrestling ends,” he said. “I took my visit to Princeton and fell in love with the campus, the team and coaches. It’s where I belong.”
The son of Kevin and Melinda Masters has a 3.7 grade-point average and lists AP calculus and computer science as his favorite subjects. He plans to major in aerospace engineering at Princeton. Masters tutors students in College Park and is a member of the Math Club at Woodward.
Masters will seek to make the United States Junior World Team at the U.S. Marine Corps U.S. Open starting April 21 in Fargo, North Dakota.