Sweet redemption: Heartbreaking loss as a junior drives Upson-Lee senior Winkles to a state title

THOMASTON — Upson-Lee’s Logan Winkles will never forget what happened in the state championship match his junior year.

Wrestling in the heavyweight division against an opponent that outweighed him by 40 pounds, Winkles decided to go for the win instead of heading into overtime. As he rushed into a leg sweep, his feet came back and caught together and his opponent fell on top of him, his state championship dream disappearing in the final 15 seconds of the match.

This year, with memories of that loss burning in his head any time a match went into the second period, Winkles won an amazing 50 matches against only two defeats, including the GHSA Class AAAA heavyweight championship with a 5-2 win over Joey Carmen from Ola.

Winkles is the All-Middle Georgia wrestler of the year.

“That loss stayed with me a long time,” said Winkles, who will be attending N.C. State on a football scholarship. “I was nervous this year, but not as nervous as last year because I had been there before. I kept thinking of last year’s match and how stupid I had been and that I never wanted to feel that way again. I had a big crowd behind me, and I didn’t want to let them or myself down. I tried to be more patient and take my points when they came. Thankfully, it worked out.”

High school wrestling in the state of Georgia is dominated by Atlanta area teams, many that have individual coaches as well as their high school coaches. It is a sport that usually takes a long time to master, and sometimes the key to the match is how many moves a wrestler knows.

So where does Winkles go to pick up new techniques?

“I pretty much have to take advantage of what we have,” Winkles said. “Coach Craig Logan does a great job with all of us, but I basically use YouTube to pick up a lot of the new moves. I usually will look up moves that I can learn and take my sister’s laptop up to the wrestling room and all of us will watch them over and over until we pick them up. I know a bunch of guys are paying a lot of money for their own private coaches, but with Upson-Lee being a fairly new program, we get better any way we can figure it out. It really has helped us.”

Logan, in his seventh year as Upson-Lee’s wrestling coach, knew the summer of Winkles’ eighth grade year that he had found someone special.

“I was having him wrestle with us during the summer, and he was beating juniors,” Logan said. “He is just so coachable, and he has put us on the map as far as wrestling goes. He is an excellent leader and always does what he is asked to do. He is one of the top guys I have ever coached and has just continued to grow as a young man.”

Winkles is quick to admit that he did not have a clue what being a leader meant until his junior year.

“I thought I was going 100 percent all the time,” Winkles said. “But Juantez Hartsfield taught me by his actions when we played football together that I had a long way to go. He was just never negative. My motor was always going, but it was no way near what his was. He taught me to go 150 percent, every play, every move I make.

“I thought I was giving it my all, but now I know I am. Practice is really where leaders are made, and then it’s easy to carry over into games because the adrenaline kicks in.”

Winkles is just back from the USA Kansas City Nationals, where he placed third, and will also compete in the GNWA duals, which is in June.

“I think I am a football player first, but there is nothing like the individuality of wrestling,” Winkles said. “You can be a great football player but be on a bad team. If you mess up on the mat, you can’t blame anyone but myself. I learned that when I lost as a junior. I have replayed that match so many times in my head, but I think it has made me a better athlete.”

Winkles is looking forward to a position change when he arrives at N.C. State, moving from tight end to fullback. And, rest assured, the motor will be running 150 percent every time he steps on the field.

“I know there are a lot of UGA and Tech fans around here, but they all tell me they will cheer for N.C. State when we play them,” Winkles said. “Everyone in the community has been great to me, and I am sure that will continue.”