Wando senior wrestler Sean Garrett flashed his coach a thumbs up while he pinned his opponent during the Warriors' region-clinching match win this past season.
To anyone who has ever been a senior student athlete participating in a senior night game, you know there are mixed emotions. Coaches make efforts to play all the seniors, and depending on the postseason situation, it could be the final home game for a handful of players' careers.
There are hugs. There are tears. And for Sean Garrett, a Wando wrestler, there was a good ol' thumbs up gesture to his coach while he had his opponent pinned.
The Warriors hosted West Ashley with not only the senior night on the line, but also the school's first region regular season championship. By the time Garrett took to the mat, coach Adam Schneider said Wando had already clinched the 4A Region 7 title, so the focus became entirely on the seniors to win their matchups.
“My coach was going crazy on the sideline,” Garrett, who will be attending South Carolina in the fall, said. “As I was pinning him, I gave him a thumbs up to him to know I got it. Everyone started laughing.”
Schneider admitted he wasn't fond of the gesture at first for fear that it might look like he was insulting the other team, but said he realized that wasn't the intent and it was strictly out of excitement. “I was fired up on the sideline; I even threw my clipboard down,” Schneider said. “It's great to see the boys hard work pay off...he was the last senior that day wrestling, and we were all pulling for him.”
All Warrior seniors won their matches against the Wildcats.
Garrett considers it his best athletic moment in high school, but he had plenty to choose from. As a rare three-sport athlete at the 4A level, Garrett wrestled his junior and senior year, played football all four years and tennis all four years.
He finishes with a 3.6 GPA, in addition to the bounty of varsity letters. Tennis coach Winde Ellenberg, who nicknamed him “Muscles” because he was the strongest member of the team – the type of player who gets off the bus first after a road trip – praised his leadership and sportsmanship. “He is an excellent athlete who strives for achievement,” Ellenberg said of her four-year varsity standout. Garrett's overall record was 23-2 and his senior season included being named captain and an all-region team selection.
Garrett joked that he was always on the wrong end of teammates' jokes. He was too strong to look like the typical tennis player, and the football guys wouldn't cut him any slack for playing a non-contact sport in the spring.
He said football was the most difficult sport of the three, because it was a year-round effort. When the Warriors football team was knocked out of the playoffs, Garrett had 21 days before the wrestling team's first scrimmage. That also meant dropping a dozen pounds to reach the 182-pound weight class. “The first week was really tough,” he said. “With football, it was a lot of weight lifting and eating. I just ran more.”
His wrestling coach knows the time crunch three-sport athletes face. He was one himself from seventh through 12th grade. “There is too much specialization in high school sports today,” Schneider said. “I always encourage my wrestlers to play at least one other sport. Even at a school our size, it can be done.”
He has a point. As athletes go from the recreational level to middle school to high school and beyond, the numbers dwindle considerably, especially from high school to college.
Wando football coach Jimmy Noonan echoed Ellenberg's and Schneider's sentiments. “He is an example to all student athletes that you can be well-rounded and successful in multiple sports while maintaining a rigorous academic load,” Noonan said. “(He) came to workouts and practices every day with his sleeves rolled up and his work boots on.”