WRESTLING: Senior trio share Catoosa County Wrestler of the Year honors

Heritage senior Ryan Craft, Ringgold senior Tanner Stone and LFO senior Nathan Williams - the 2018-2019 Catoosa County Co-Wrestlers of the Year.

Three wrestlers in Catoosa County, one of each of its three high schools, advanced to the GHSA state championship finals this past season in their respective weight classes and classifications to cap outstanding years.

Today, those three seniors - Ringgold's Tanner Stone, LFO's Nathan Williams and Heritage's Ryan Craft - share the 2018-2019 Catoosa County Wrestler of the Year Award.

Stone said it "felt good" to win the award.

"I just wish I could have ended the year differently," he said. "It didn't end the way I wanted it to, but I gave it everything I had. I did more training this year and just went out there and tried to compete."

Stone won first place at the Ooltewah Invitational then turned around the next week to defeat two former state champions at a tri-match at Sonoraville. He followed up a fifth-place finish at the McCallie Invitational by winning Area 6-AAA and Class 3A state sectional titles before ending the year as state runner-up at 126 pounds to end a 59-5 season.

"I'm going to miss my teammates and Coach (David) Moss, especially Coach Moss," Stone laughed. "I had a lot of fun with him and all the guys."

Stone said he is considering attending and wrestling at nearby Reinhardt University in Waleska, Ga.

"I went on a visit there and I really liked it," he added. "We'll see."

Williams recently signed a letter of intent to play football at Shorter University in Rome, Ga. after back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. However, he proved his mettle on the mat in his senior season as well with a 44-11 mark in his final year.

"It's pretty awesome (to share the award)," Williams said. "We're all in the same community and we all strive to be No.1, so it's really cool to be able to share it with these guys."

After earning fifth place as a sophomore, Williams was on a mission in his final year in Red-and-White. He won an individual championship at the Murray County Invitational, defending the title he won there as a junior and went on to take down Sonoraville's John Knight in the Area 6-AAA championship at 195 pounds.

Williams would face Knight two more times to close out the year, once at the sectional finals and once at the Class 3A state finals, to cap a hard-fought, physical trio of matches.

"I had nothing to lose (this year)," he explained. "I knew I probably wasn't going to wrestle in college and that this was my last shot. I wanted to get some redemption for not being able to go (to state) last year. I had a lot of motivation from that.

"(Wrestling at LFO) has been awesome. I came in and we just got a new coaching staff. Coach (Kenny) Hill and Coach (Drake) Enloe have been really good to me and taught me everything I know. I'm thankful for the time I got to spend with them and my teammates."

And although football is on the immediate menu for the next few years, Williams did leave the door open for a possible return to the mat with the Hawks.

"Cutting weight would be difficult with the position (the football team) is wanting me to play," he added. "But if it worked out, I might give it a shot."

Wrestling at the next level is also a possibility for Craft, along with other sports.

The Generals' 113-pounder played kicker on the football team and ran cross country, helping both teams reach the state tournament, while simultaneously trying to get ready for wrestling season.

"It was tough," said Craft, who is also playing soccer this spring. "I just had to keep doing everything systematically. Finish one thing then go to the next. It was sort of hard, but I was able to do it."

Following a summer in which he was selected for the all-star team at camp at Virginia Tech, Craft went on to win two invitational tournaments this past season and finished fifth at McCallie. After he pinned his way to Region 6-AAAA and Class 4A state sectional titles, Craft fought his way into the state finals.

He ended his career as a three-time state medalist - he placed third as a sophomore - and a two-time Class 4A state finalist. He went 65-10 in his final season and 204-58 for his career at Heritage.

"(The season) went really well, I thought," he continued. "I did tie a school record for most wins a single season and I broke the (school record) for most wins in a career. That was great and it was good to get back to the finals. Unfortunately, I couldn't pull it off, but it was still a good year. It worked out really well.

"I'll miss the people and all the fun experiences, especially all the tournaments and getting to spend time with my teammates and everything."

Craft, who is also an Eagle Scout, considered Mercer, Sewanee and even Georgia to kick in college, but also decided to go through the application process and was recently offered an appointment - and full ride - to the United States Naval Academy, an offer he has since accepted. Midshipmen are required to play a sport at Navy and Craft will have plenty of options awaiting him.