FORREST Przybysz said he and Cain Finch are friends outside the Jefferson wrestling room. Inside practice, well, not so much. “Inside the wrestling room we try to kill each other,” Przybysz said.

It’s that competitive drive that’s fueled both these champions. Przybysz (182 lb.) and Finch (152 lb.) both shoot for their third consecutive individual titles this week at the state meet at Gwinnett Arena.

Przybysz and Finch battled off and on in practice since seventh grade before becoming practice partners last season.

“If there’s any practice partner to have, it would be him,” said Finch, who’s been wrestling for 14 years. “He’s probably the best one in the state to have. We push each other pretty good.”

Finch concurs that those practice grappling sessions get heated.

“Oh, sometimes,” Finch said. “Sometimes we have a few (battles). We might throw a fist in there.”

This pair has produced similar results on the wrestling mat over their stellar careers but each has his own approach.

Przybysz said Finch loves to feed off the energy in a gym or arena.

“He loves the pressure,” he said. “He’s in it for the crowd. He feeds off the emotions of the crowd. The finals is where he wants to be. He wrestles the best in the finals.”

Przybysz, meanwhile, tends to be more even-keel.

“I try not to focus on the crowd. I try to stay calm,” he said.

There will certainly be crowds watching this week as each tries to three-peat at Gwinnett Arena.

Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said defending state champions tend to get everyone’s best shot.

“They’ll have a little pressure on them,” Thurmond said. “I don’t think they’ll have as much pressure as trying to win your fourth. That’s crazy pressure. But there’s plenty of pressure there and there’s bulls-eyes on their backs. Any kid wants to beat a state champ or a returning state champ.”

Przybysz’s road to a third championship would likely include having to beat Toombs County’s Kalin Wilhite. Przybysz defeated Wilhite 6-4 over the weekend in the state sectionals but had to rally in the last 20 seconds of the match to do it.

“It was a very, very close match,” said Przybysz, who’s wrestled for 12 years. “I’ll probably see him in the finals again, so it’s going to be pretty close. I wish that would have been the state finals.”

Finch stands to face tough matches in both the quarterfinals and finals if he’s to win a third title. His bracket includes a two-time champion (in the 119-lb. and 140-lb. classes), Chattooga’s Brandon Siffles.

Both say they’re confident and nervous at the same time this week. The pressure does build with each championship, they say.

“I have more nerves now than I did for my first probably because it’s my senior year,” Finch said. “I’m not as nervous now as I will be on Saturday.”

Przybysz echoed that sentiment.

“You kind of have more to lose when you’ve won state twice,” Przybysz said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like going for four. I’m glad I’m going for three not four.”

Przybysz to wrestle at Naval Academy, Finch has college options too

Przybysz’s career will continue at the Division I level at the Naval Academy.

Przybysz will go the prep school route — a year in Rhode Island — and then into the Naval Academy. After graduation, he will enlist in the Navy for five years.

Przybysz describes the application process.

“It’s pretty strenuous,” he said. “The application process is pretty tough in itself, on top of that it’s been a long road just to get there. Other than that, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a good experience.”

He was able to gain admission without a congressional appointment. Przybysz said coaches talked to the board of admissions and he got direct acceptance.

“Being a wrestler and them recruiting me for wrestling helped a lot getting into the Naval Academy,” he said.

Fellow Jefferson senior Andrew Bartek is headed to Annapolis to play baseball (see page 1B). It was actually through Bartek that Przybysz became interested in the Naval Academy.

“He talked me into checking out the Naval Academy,” Przybysz said. “If it weren’t for him, I might be somewhere else right now.”

Przybysz said attending a service academy and wrestling there is a great privilege.

“It’s an honor obviously because they’re paying for my school, the prestige that comes with graduating from the Naval Academy or another service academy is beyond most things,” he said. “I’ll have plenty of opportunities when I get out. It’s going to open up a lot of doors. On top of that I’ll get to serve the United States.”

Przybysz describes the dedication that it took to get to this point in his wrestling career.

“Waking up finding something to do to get better … I just try to not let a day go by where I’m not thinking of someway to get better that day,” he said.

And that’s year-round.

“Every year the past two years that I’ve won a state championship, I’m in the wrestling room the next day. Win or lose, it will be the same thing this year.”

Meanwhile, Finch is looking at Appalachian State or Newberry. Appalachian State has offered him a scholarship. Finch still has to visit Newberry. He’ll make a college decision at some point after the wrestling season is over.

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