When you're an athlete at the top of your game, you seek out challenges.
Chambersburg wrestler Garett Hammond got that chance last week and he aced the tests.
Hammond, the Public Opinion Male Athlete of the Week, was 4-0 last week in helping the Trojans reach the championship match of the District 3 Class AAA Team Championships. Along the way, he beat wrestlers ranked No. 12, No. 14 and No. 2 in the state.
The best match for Hammond, ranked No. 3 at 152 pounds in AAA, was Saturday's 3-0 defeat of No. 2 Austin Rose of Central Dauphin. Rose had beaten Hammond 6-4 at the Beast of the East Tournament in December.
"I'd rather have tough matches," Hammond said. "I was able to get some good draws and I love the aspect of getting them while wrestling in the team competition. A lot of times they bump away, but we got the matchups we wanted last week."
Of course, Hammond, as a defending PIAA state champion, is going to get the best efforts of his opponents.
"I don't look at it as me defending a title," he said. "I'm just focused on this year, not last year. You have to go out and beat good kids and it doesn't matter what happened a year ago."
Trojan coach Doug Rine said, "Garett is in a good place. His confidence level is high and he's wrestling very well right now. He had a really good match against Rose and that win established his foothold in the district.
Since Chambersburg lost to Upper Perkiomen on Monday, the team's dual meet season - the best in school history - is over. Next up is the Section I Tournament at Mechanicsburg on Feb. 16.
"Getting in these team matches makes for a good transition to the individual tournaments," Hammond said. "(Being in the team duals) this year makes it a little different, but we still have almost two weeks to get ready. I'll get in some hard workouts and do some lifting and ramp up the conditioning. You need to peak at the right time."
Rine said, "I think we'll take a little break - I'm giving them a couple of days off. It's been intense and non-stop for the last couple of weeks. But we'll get 'em ready for sectionals."
Hammond has posted a 37-4 record so far, with 18 pins, seven technical falls and four major decisions. Now it's just a question of what opponents he'll get. Rose is likely to stay at 152 and Cumberland Valley's T.C. Warner - who Hammond beat in the sectional, district and state finals last year - may drop from 160.
It doesn't matter to Hammond.
"It's just fun to wrestle in the postseason," he said.
Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and email@example.com.
Garett Hammond, Chambersburg
Parents: Lori and Mark Hammond
Interests: Year-round wrestling, fishing
Surprising fact: He loves to wakeboard.
Favorite team: Penn State
Athlete most admired: Jordan Burroughs, U.S. Olympic champion
Most influential person in athletic career: His dad. "He has always supported me and I really look up to him."
Statistics: Last week, in 4 matches during the District 3-AAA Team Championships, Hammond had a 4-0 record, with 2 pins and a technical fall Of those 4 wins, 3 came against wrestlers ranked in the top 15 in the state, including No. 2 Austin Rose of Central Dauphin.