To say that Paul Carter is having to fill big shoes in his high school athletic career would be an understatement.
During his first two years in the Carson High wrestling program, Carter couldn't quite crack the varsity lineup and for good reason: He was the understudy to Doug Brooks and Justin Sarnowski, who both went on to win NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State titles.
But being understudies to Brooks and Sarnowski has certainly prepared Carter, a junior, for the meat grinder to come in his 140-pound class on Friday and Saturday in the Northern 4A Championships at Galena High.
Carter has also been able to make his own mark in football even though he lived in the shadows of older brother Josh, who was a top running back for the Senators for the past two years. The younger Carter was an all-academic state performer in football.
As Carter sees, being the understudy to such talented athletes has been an advantage.
"They have helped me a lot," said Carter about Brooks and Sarnowski. "There's not too much you can do when those two guys are in front of you. But now that those two guys are out of the way, it's much easier."
Carter has taken advantage this year by leading the Senators in wins with a 29-6 mark. He enters this weekend's zone meet as the Sierra League's No. 1 seed.
"Paul really had a breakthrough year," Carson coach Tim McCarthy said. "We didn't imagine that he would have a year like this."
McCarthy said Carter is the quickets wrestler on the team. "He's very quick and explosive," McCarthy said.
Carter gives much of the credit to Brooks and Sarnowski. "They beat me up quite a bit," Carter said.
"It helps a lot with who I'm wrestling with now. They were a challenge to work with, but fun, too."
Carter's class is arguably the toughest in the north. "We're all matched up pretty well," Carter said. "We're all pretty evenly matched.
"It will be interesting to see what happens. I want to win very bad. I'm looking to get top two at least."
Carter's ultimate goal is to win a state title. "If I can't this year, then definitely next year," he said.
Carter said the training he received from his older brother was similar to that of Brooks and Sarnowski. "He beat me up quite a bit," Carter said. "We're pretty close, though."
AGUILAR IN, BOZEMAN OUT
Carson received a boost when one of its top wrestlers, Josh Aguilar, who's been out most of the season with an injury, returned this week in time to compete in the zone tournament.
McCarthy said Aguilar's return is huge "not only just from the points he's going to score. Leadership-wise, it's going to be big for us."
But the Senators were also delivered a blow when one of its top wrestlers, Mallory Bozeman, who was 23-3 this season at 119 points, decided to leave the team.
"That would have scored a good 25 points at zone," said McCarthy about Bozeman.
Carson now has to enter the zone tournament with 13 wrestlers, one less than a full team of 14. With Bozeman, McCarthy said he considered his team as the favorite to win zone.
"I'd say before that happened, we definitely would have been the favorite," said McCarthy about Bozeman leaving the team. "But the kids are motivated to make up any ground."
Now it looks like the tournament will come down to his team, Fallon and Elko, McCarthy said.
But it still promises to be the most successful zone tournament ever for Carson in which even all 13 wrestlers could advance to the state meet. The top five wrestlers go to state.
"I don't think it's likely that will get 13 through," McCarthy said. "But it's certainly possible."
McCarthy noted that along with Carter, Chandler Brown (135) and Joe Roman (145) also have tough divisions. The other No. 1 seed from the Sierra League for Carson is Eric Aguilera (103).
McCarthy said he would like his team to eclipse the previous high of nine that went to the state tournament when the top six advanced.
"If we were able to get 11 through, that would be outstanding," he said.
Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.