West Laurens wrestling head coach Michael Slaughter had a pretty good idea about what Vincent Mannella could do as the wrestler entered his freshman season.
By way of feeder and middle school wrestling programs, coaches are able to get somewhat of a handle on what type of athletes will be at their disposal on the high school level.
But when it came to Mannella, he simply carried over the level of success from national competition against pretty much anyone he lined up across from in the GHSA ranks.
By the end of his freshman season, he had compiled a 51-1 record, winning an area and Class 4A title along the way and placing third in his national tournament.
Mannella, who by way of his overall performance earned a top-20 national ranking as a ninth-grader, is The Telegraph’s 2017 All-Middle Georgia Wrestler of the Year.
“I didn’t really expect to have the total success I did,” Mannella said. “I knew there were going to be plenty of tough matches as I got into my high school career. I kind of got confidence from the past years. I had some great coaches and amazing partners that have helped me.”
So how does a freshman seamlessly merge into the heat of competition and thrive in a way that Mannella did?
According to Slaughter, it’s an energy that’s not only on the wrestling mat, but off of it, as well.
“His work ethic is probably by far above any wrestler I have ever worked with,” Slaughter said. “Even when he will work with me during practices, he is constantly doing a little bit extra before and after practice and on weekends when he is home.”
That work ethic served Mannella well this year. And that was even when he wrestled within and above his weight class. Slaughter shuffled his lineup during a better part of the season, aligning Mannella for the 113-pound division before shifting him down to 106 in January for the state duals. And like most things this season, grappling against competition a bit heavier and more experienced didn’t rattle Mannella, either.
“With Vincent, it’s not the higher weight class, he just wants the challenge of not cutting much weight,” Slaughter said. “The competition just motivated him even more.”
And when it came time for individual state competition and an even bigger spotlight, Mannella was up to the challenge. He took care of his first two opponents by pinfalls before technical falls gave him 17-1 and 19-4 wins to claim the state title.
That piling up of points was fitting for Mannella, given the way that he describes himself as a wrestler, not to mention the biggest area of which he feels he improved this past season.
“I think I improved on scoring more points,” he said. “The focus is always on the attack and I just tried to stay loose. I look at myself as someone who is always on the offensive — my best defense is my best offense. I always try and keep the pace high and score as many points as possible.”
And with a state title already in hand, Manella has already set lofty goals in front of himself, which include bigger national wins, wrestling on the Division I level in college and making his way up the ladder to wrestle in the Olympics.
“In this sport, you don’t want to dial them back,” said Slaughter, who had a quality high school and college wrestling career of his own. “You kind of want them to push their limit each day. The other guys see it and are like ‘holy crap, he’s doing this, what do I need to do to do what he is doing?’ He leads the other guys in ways that I can’t.”
All-Middle Georgia Wrestling
Cameron Butler, West Laurens, Sr., 160
Returning first-teamer; state Class 4A champion; 42-5 record; third and 41-8 in 2016.
Julian Farber, Veterans, Fr., 106
Second in Class 5A; 60-4; lost 3-0 in championship.
Christian Grauberger, Dodge County, Jr., 138
Returning honorable mention selection; state Class 2A runner-up; 58-4 record, 37 pins; lost championship 16-11.
Vincent Mannella, West Laurens, Fr., 106
Finished 38-1; won Class 4A championship 19-4.
Christian Rodgers, Tattnall Square, Sr., 220
Three-time first-team selection; state Class 1A champion; 33-2 record; state runner-up and 27-3 in 2016.
Reed Vincent, Houston County, Soph,. 138
State runner-up; 39-2 record, 27 pins; 76-7 in two seasons.
Crawford County: Matthew Barajas, Jr., 132.
Dodge County: Jared Cannon, Jr., 160; Cam'ron McCloud, Sr., 195.
Dublin: Dejuan Blackshear, Jr., 132; Cameron Mack, Sr., 126; Lavadrick Turner, Sr., 195.
East Laurens: Zyshonne Holliman, Sr., 182.
FPD: Denson Martin, Sr., 195.
Houston County: Michael Cole, Sr., 160.
John Milledge: Ethan Huff,113; Cole McNair, 106; Chandler Pittman, 145.
Jones County: Nick Nelson, Sr., 138.
Lamar County: Cedric Dumas, Sr., 285; Zachery Ferguson, Jr., 220.
Monticello: Maximillian Hess, Sr., 170; Nail Al Hasi, Sr., 120.
Mount de Sales: Noah Cunard, Sr., 170.
Northeast: Zacharie Pryor-Hicks, Sr., 182.
Northside: Deshawn Farber, Fr., 132.
Perry: Kyle Carroll, Sr., 106; Payton Moss, Jr., 152; Carl Whitehead, Sr., 285.
Rutland: Daniel Taylor, Soph., 126.
Southwest: Anthony Trim, Sr., 160.
Trinity Christian: Chance Blum, Soph., 120; William Gay, Jr., 138; Chris Young, Jr., 220.
Upson-Lee: Demarquez Carter, Jr., 195; Lazavier Moore, Jr., 220; Keyonte Robinson, Sr., 170.
Veterans: Francis Morrissey, Fr., 120; Michael Mort, Sr., 132; Jacob Pierce, Soph., 160; Kori Walker, Sr., 182.
Warner Robins: Sam Bish, Jr., 220; Gabriel Floyd, Jr., 152.
Westfield: Chandler Dean, 138; Josh Kinnebrew, 152; Ethan Martin, 113.
West Laurens: Blake Beasley, Jr., 145; Joseph Horne, Jr., 285; Logan McGowan, Soph., 120.
Windsor: Jonathan Embro, Jr., 126; Cameron Kilgore, 160.