Evan Carrigan stumbled upon wrestling by accident as a freshman and hasn’t looked back.
Last month, the Westwood senior won his second Class 4A championship in three seasons by conquering the 132-pound division. The victory capped off a 55-0 season and gave him some redemption after losing in the state championship match the year before.
After his victory over Dalen Byerley to win the title, Carrigan couldn’t contain his excitement, so he took a stroll around the Anderson Civic Center.
“I couldn’t let anyone take it from me this year. It was mine,” Carrigan said. “It felt fantastic. I just had to take a victory lap. I couldn’t stand still I was so happy.”
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In addition to championships, Carrigan racked up plenty of accolades during the season. He was selected to the North-South All-Star wrestling Classic and named the Class 4A Wrestler of the Year.
Carrigan also was chosen as The State’s Wrestler of the Year.
But Carrigan’s stellar wrestling career almost didn’t happen. He grew up playing football and was a member of the Redhawks freshman team before being slowed by a shoulder injury.
When football practice was cancelled one day, Carrigan didn’t have a phone to call for a ride, so he ended up going with a friend to a meeting about joining the wrestling team while he waited. He took home an information packet about joining the team and tried out a few weeks later.
“I always planned to go back to football, and wrestling was something I could do during the offseason. But near the end of my freshman year, I fell in love with the team and the sport,” Carrigan said. “At first, it was hard because it was different and I didn’t know anything about it. It was fun because it was an individual sport and a team sport at the same time. You can shine as an individual and team. The brotherhood that wrestling builds is a great environment.”
Carrigan went 13-7 that first season, but lost only three matches for the rest of his career and finished 176-10. After that first season, he dedicated himself to the sport. He gave up playing football and had his parents buy a used wrestling mat at home to hone his skills.
He also had his parents drive to tournaments throughout the summer to help him get better.
“You could see he was committed to wrestling and wanted to be a state champion and nationally ranked,” Westwood coach Ashley Powell said. “He was never afraid of competition, even when he was bad. He was determined to be the best.”
Powell said Carrigan’s work ethic and determination trickled down to the rest of the guys on the team and was a reason for the team’s success. The Redhawks won back-to-back Region 4-4A titles the past two years.
“He outworked people even after he won his first championship,” Powell said. “He has a commitment to practice the right way. You can tell. He practiced like a champion and would open his practice room to other kids on the team. It wasn’t about him. He is not selfish and is 100 percent devoted. He outworked everyone.”
Carrigan’s work isn’t done. He has his sights on wrestling in college and has verbally committed to Campbell, but is open to other offers.
In the coming weeks, Carrigan will compete in the FloNationals in Pennsylvania, USA Wrestling Scholastic Duals in Indiana and the Journeyman Nationals in New York. He became the first South Carolina wrestler to earn All-American honors last year at the FloNationals.
“You got to be as good as you wanted to be. If you wanted to be a state or national champ, you made that decision by as hard as you work,” Carrigan said. “I hate losing, so I worked hard everyday to prevent that from happening.”