This time last year, the Paducah Tilghman wrestling team made history by crowning their first ever three state champions. Fast forward a year and the Blue Tornado bring home four more individual state championships, a state runner-up, three third place finishes, a fifth place finish — Oh, and a team state championship.
All of this took place over the weekend at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, KY.
Among those champions was juniors Malachi Rider and Uriah Virzi who are now back-to-back state champions, and seniors Caleb Mays and Jayden Frazier. Freshman Jayven Williams took home the state runner-up title, senior Oscar (JT) Adams, and sophomores Jack James and Jimmy Mooney all took third place and freshman DJ Wilson took fifth.
Virzi capped off the weekends events in the 190 pound weight class, after watching many of his teammates find success, he found success himself, and in doing so, ended a long standing run for Union County High School.
The team win came in the form of 185.5 points, 23.5 points ahead of the Braves to end their seven-year long reign.
“I feel like this weekend couldn’t have gone better,” Virzi said. “Yeah, we had a couple losses, but other than that, it was an amazing, spectacular weekend. But, in reality the team title is way more important than my individual title. We put in so much work in our wrestling room that there was no reason why we shouldn’t have gotten the title, no reason our coach shouldn’t have won that award, he’s an amazing coach.”
Oh yes, to top it all off, Paducah Tilghman head coach Seth Livingston was named the KYWCA Coach of the Year.
“People keep coming up and congratulating me but it doesn’t feel right,” Livingston said. “There are so many people that are involved with this program. We talk about family all the time, and there are so many people that pour into the program to help these kids and helped them get here today.”
Every single Paducah Tilghman wrestler expressed the same sentiment as Virzi, their individual titles seemed insignificant compared to the teams accomplishments.
“I feel awesome right now but what feels even more awesome is this team title,” Rider said. “We have been working for it all year, so that’s what feels awesome is the team title.”
Senior Caleb Mays reemphasized the importance of family that Coach Livingston touched on. That the team is a family from top to bottom, from the players to the coaches and their own individual families as well.
“The family environment helps everyone push each other,” Mays said. “It’s a great environment to make everyone to be as good as they can be.”
Of course, while the family aspect of the team is a strong motivator for each Paducah Tilghman wrestler, individual motivators also played key roles in earning top spots.
“Honestly, the kid that won the title last year at this weight was the reason that I started wrestling, senior Jayden Frazier said. “So it was very important to me to follow in his footsteps, especially my senior year and get it done.”
As state championship after state championship was secured for the Blue Tornado, the team gathered around to support the next one up, culminating in a mosh pit of blue as the final title was secured. After a chance to celebrate as a team, they were welcomed back at Paducah Tilghman High School with a police escort and fans waiting to congratulate them.
And, with plenty of young talent still on the squad, Paducah Tilghman will continue with their eye on the prize until next year.
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