Carson Casteel has wrestled since early in elementary school, but he said he truly embraced the sport as part of Florence High’s first varsity team when he was in seventh grade.

“It was the team bonding. I never had the team bond experience with wrestling (before that). It’s always been an individual sport with me. And I really got to know my teammates and have a team, friends on the wrestling team.”

Casteel had a big sophomore year for himself but also appears to be a leader for the still fairly new Florence High wrestling program, and he is the TimesDaily’s Wrestler of the Year.

Casteel and the other TimesDaily athletes and coaches of the year will be honored at a June banquet at the Florence Lauderdale Coliseum. At the banquet, the overall male and female athletes of the year will be announced along with the top boys and girls athletic programs.

“Wrestling is an individual sport but it’s also a team sport at the same time. The team aspect, it’s like no other,” Casteel said. “Your brothers are going through it just as bad as you are. You’re pushing each other in the (practice) room every day. It’s tough, and you really care about them. It’s a big deal.”

That might be due in part to wrestling’s nature. Each competitor is alone except for his opponent, with all attention on them. It’s not a place for excuses.

Casteel is also part of the Florence football team’s secondary and loves football, too. He acknowledged all sports require confidence but “wrestling’s a different beast, it’s a different animal.”

“It’s you and the other guy, and you can’t point your finger at anybody else,” Casteel said. “If you mess up it’s your fault.

That can lead to tough lessons even after great seasons. Casteel won 30 matches this year and finished second in the North sectional, improving upon his fifth-place finish last year and earning a return trip to the state tournament.

But Casteel lost his opening state tournament match to Hewitt-Trussville’s Owen Boren.

“You can definitely get wrapped up in your head with the people in the stands, but the people that succeed at state keep their head right, don’t worry about anything else, just go out there and wrestle (like it’s) a normal match. Normal routines,” Casteel said.

“And I was just thinking too far ahead. I wasn’t thinking in the moment. And I’ve got to work on that because I didn’t perform my best at state. Looked a little bit too far forward in the tournament instead of being in the now.”

But Casteel acknowledges it was still a good season. Joseph Grijalva, Samuel Daniel and Carson’s older brother Cade Casteel were among other Falcons who performed well this season.

“We’ve got a lot of people that love the sport on the team. We’ve got new kids that are coming in,” Carson Casteel said. “It’s a good deal for us. We’re going to be a good team next year, too.”

Contact Craig at Craig.Thomas@TimesDaily.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TD_CraigThomas

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