TROY — Troy Athens junior Thomas Keyes has been to his share of wrestling individual state finals as a fan.
That’ll change Feb. 28, when the 130-pounder walks onto The Palace of Auburn Hills floor with senior teammate Jazz Hubbard for the Division 1 final.
“Now, finally, I get to be in it,” Keyes said.
Hubbard qualified at 135 pounds.
The two have been training partners this season, honing each other’s skills, something they both credit for helping them reach the final.
“I know what he does, and he knows what I do, so it’s hard to put moves on each other,” Keyes said. “So when it comes to a match, no one can defend it as good as him, so it’s easier to hit on some of the moves.”
In the opening round, Keyes (44-6 overall) takes on Hartland High sophomore Jacob Gorial (53-4).
Hubbard described Keyes as a fundamentally sound wrestler.
“A lot of times, I’ll look at Thomas’ technique, because his is far greater than mine, because he’s been wrestling longer,” Hubbard said. “So a lot of times, if I need help, I’ll go to him.”
Hubbard (41-7) meets Muskegon Mona Shores junior Adam Pawlowski (41-5).
Keyes said Hubbard is able to overpower his opponents.
“He’s fast and strong. If he gets your legs, he’s going to take you down,” Keyes said. “He’s also good at turning people. If he’s on top and he gets you in a half, you’re probably getting flipped over.”
Coach John Keyes, Thomas’ older brother, knows what its like to wrestle on the biggest stage. He placed fifth at 130 for Athens his senior season in 2009.
John Keyes said his advice to the grapplers is to try and not be nervous.
“You have to get your jitters out and think of it as another match. Don’t lose sight of what the goal is. Stay focused on what is going on,” he said. “At the end of the year, it’s pretty much who wants it the most at The Palace. That’s what it comes down to — putting in the hard work to place at The Palace.”