As the Effingham County Rebels prepared for this weekend's GHSA state wrestling tournament, head coach Nico Guggino made sure to keep his troops motivated.
"I tell them all the time, don't forget what it feels like to lose," Guggino says.
That’s good advice, but senior Zebrandon Gant has to reach way back in his memory for that feeling.
The Rebels grappler hasn’t lost this season. He enters this weekend’s state wrestling tournament at 53-0, with a chance to become the program’s first ever undefeated state champ.
Gant is proud of his record so far, but knows he still has to be perfect a little while longer to achieve his goals.
"When you get to state, this is when everything starts to count," he says. "This is when it starts over. I’m looking at myself as 0-0."
Standing between Gant and the perfect season is four wins against some of the best wrestlers Georgia has to offer. The pressure is all on him, as challenger after challenger will look to play spoiler.
But Gant isn't feeling any of it.
"I don't want to say I'm too confident, because it'll seem cocky," he says. "But I'm confident. I work hard."
"He's one of those kids that just steps up to the plate," Guggino says. "The bigger the stage, the better he wrestles."
Gant finished at the state runner-up in the Class 6A 170 pound division. He moved up two weight classes to 195 pounds, and still has found himself here. With even more on the line this season, Gant says his mind is only on one thing.
"Finishing. Just finishing," he says. "I have to make sure I have a great week of practice. I had a great practice yesterday, going to have a great one today, and another tomorrow. Then just finish it."