PERRY – Anthony Gallagher needed a more constructive way to deal with his aggressiveness.
The Perry High School senior described himself as a “violent” and “scrappy kid” before he reached eighth grade. But, at that point, he hadn’t used his wild energy toward anything other than fooling around with friends.
“I was really small my eighth-grade year,” he said. “I was good at wrestling around with my buddies. A couple of guys talked me into (wrestling).”
Gallagher, in just his fifth year on the mat, has already become one of the Ramblers’ most decorated wrestlers in program history.
After wrestling at 112 pounds as a sophomore, Gallagher wrestled at 103 pounds last season and went 45-1 on his way to capturing the Division 3 state title. He became the program’s first individual state champion in 42 years.
Gallagher is back at 112 this season, and he’s on pace to become a back-to-back state champion. The senior grabbed his second straight individual title at last weekend’s district tournament.
“It hits me every once in a while,” said Gallagher, who is the No. 1-ranked wrestler in Division 3 at 112 pounds, according to michigangrappler.com. “I’ve done it in such a short time.”
The sport didn’t come naturally to Gallagher. Third-year coach Tim Ebenhoeh Jr. took over the program when Gallagher was a sophomore, and he said Gallagher “wasn’t very good.”
Gallagher said Ebenhoeh saw the potential midway through that second season, and the coach convinced him he had the ability to be a state champion.
“He didn’t know much…,” Ebenhoeh said. “This has been a short progression. Over a year and a half, two years, he was able to go from not a very good wrestler to a state champion.
“It’s impressive, but I’m not really surprised by it. He does the right things on and off the mat.”
Ebenhoeh said he had to have another sit-down with his senior earlier this season. The drive wasn’t there from Gallagher coming off of his state title run. And after losing just one match all of last year, the 112-pounder already suffered two losses just weeks into the season.
Gallagher said the transition from 103 back up to 112 was difficult for him. He was no longer able to solely dominate with his strength. But he agrees that his mindset wasn’t where it needed to be.
“In the beginning of the year, I’m always kind of rusty and bad,” Gallagher said. “At the beginning of this year, I was completely unfocused. I didn’t know where I was starting my goals at the time. Obviously, I wanted to be a two-time state champ, but my head wasn’t in the right spot.”
Things have gone up since the meeting, as Gallagher is 42-2 so far this year.
He defeated Lake Fenton’s AJ Geyer for the district title a week ago. Gallagher and Geyer have battled it out multiple times over the past year. The two faced off at the individual district, regional and state tournaments a season ago, as well as the team district tournament.
“Now, it’s more of an annoying match,” Gallagher said. “It’s extremely boring. There’s not much that happens when you wrestle a kid seven times now. You know what he’s going to do, he knows what you’re going to do. It makes for a stale match.”
Perry has never had a two-time state champion. Gallagher is set on making more history.
“Whatever I set my mind to, I’ve always been good at it,” he said. “I’ve never not succeeded at something.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.