Out of the 51 Columbus area wrestlers who qualified for the 2019 state tournaments in Georgia or Alabama, 10 finished in the top four of their weight classes, including one champion and two third-place finishers who made history.
Northside senior John Jones is the only local wrestler to win a state title this year and the first in the 17-year history of his school. He won the Class AAAA 120-pound weight class during the Georgia High School Association championships at the Macon Coliseum.
And in the first GHSA wrestling state championships for girls, Harris County sophomore Samantha Scarbrough finished third at 126 pounds and Jordan senior T’Keya Hill finished third at 146 pounds.
Also finishing in the top four of their weight classes from Harris County were sophomore Grant Monroe, who was third at 132 pounds in Class AAAAA, and freshman Garrett Wood, who was fourth at 126 pounds.
Also from Northside, senior Courtland Staples finished third at 152 pounds. Also in Class AAAA, junior Robert Mulvany of Columbus High finished third at 145 pounds.
In Class AA, Spencer sophomore Malik Hardy finished fourth at 113 pounds.
During the Alabama High School Athletic Association state wrestling championships at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Central senior Maxwell Kauffman finished second in the Class 7A 145-pound weight class. In his only loss of the season, Kauffman (63-1) was defeated in a 6-5 decision by Hewitt-Trussville’s Stone Barden (33-1) for the title.
Smiths Station freshman Kyle Watson placed third in the Class 7A 220-pound weight class.
The championship for Jones was the culmination of a journey — from not placing at state as a freshman, to missing the tournament as a sophomore because of a broken thumb and to placing third as a junior last year.
“It’s almost a sigh of relief,” Jones said. “I always strive to be the best I can be. I don’t let minor setbacks deter me from my main goal.”
Jones went undefeated this season (43-0), including 4-0 at the state tournament, and 138-9 during his four seasons at Northside.
“He’s the kind of kid who sets his mind on a goal and goes after it with everything he’s got,” said Northside coach Matt Redmond.
Jones, who is mulling scholarship offers to wrestle in college, including some from Division I schools, wants his championship to motivate other Patriots to win a state title.
“Hopefully I can start a trend for the wrestling program,” he said, “so there will be a lot more success with the younger wrestlers we have.”
Historic third places
Being among the wrestlers on the podium at the first girls wrestling championships in state history “felt like I was winning a million dollars,” Hill said.
Two qualities about Hill impress Jordan coach Russell Scott the most: “Her tenacity and her willingness to learn the art of wrestling. She is a very strong-minded young lady, very determined to do well.”
No wonder Hill likes to practice against her boyfriend during Jordan’s practices.
“He teaches me new moves and when I do things wrong,” she said. “It makes me stronger.”
Scarbrough put her third-place finish in perspective.
“There are 239 girls that wrestled in the state this season,” she said, “and only 160 (16 in 10 weight classes and one overall classification) were able to go to the tournament.”
Harris County coach Alex Moore called Scarbrough “an incredible worker. She brings her best every day and is an incredible practice partner. She drills as hard as anyone in the room, and it shows every time she hits the mat. She makes the people around her better.”
Scarbrough said she likes wrestling because it’s the GHSA sport most similar to jiujitsu.
“It’s a team sport but also individual,” she said. “You can’t blame your success or failure on anyone else. With gymnastics or swimming, you don’t have someone else in front of you trying to defend against every move or trying to do their own move upon you. There’s a level of complexity I like.”
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.