The Sonoraville High School wrestling team is on another mission.
The Phoenix have won three of the last four 3A traditional state championships, winning it all in 2018-2020 and in head coach Randy Steward’s sixth year on the job, the team is chasing its fourth GHSA title. (They were second last year in the traditional ranks and the Phoenix were fourth in Georgia in the team Duals competition).
Steward said they are just about set as far as who will represent the team this year in all the weight classes with the wrestling playoffs essentially here, but have still some competition among teammates going on in the middle weight divisions.
“We’re trying to figure it all out still, but the kids know we have high expectations and our goal is to win a state championship,” Steward said. “We have a great group of kids returning, including a couple of state champions, but we have about four,, maybe five different weight classes we’re not totally set on yet, so we’re looking at probably still two or three kids in those classes, but other than that, we feel pretty good about the I’d say 10 weight classes that are set. And those kids know what the goal is because they’ve been part of the success we’ve had the last few years, so we’re still looking at some kids, but we feel really good about the way things are going and I’m excited about the next few weeks and what I think we can do.”
Senior heavyweight Jaxx Knight is back as the defending state gold medalist in the 285 pounds-and-up heavyweight category and his brother, senior Jebb Knight, who has qualified for the state meet three times, was the 195-pound state champion two years ago and reached the finals again last year in his weight division.
“Those guys have both done been doing very well,” Steward said. “Jaxx has looked really good and I know Jebb’s goal is to get back to the finals again and win it this year. But they have both done a great job this year.”
In fact, Steward said the same thing about all the heavier weight divisions as the Phoenix, with some seasoned veterans in those categories, have been dominant this winter in the 170 pound-and-up matches.
Senior Draven Peppers has yet to lose a match this year in the 220-pound categories after finishing fourth at state last year. And it is the same way in the 170-pound bracket where senior Colt Weaver was fourth last year at state and in the 182-pound division where senior Gavin Harper is looking to make his third trip to the state meet and was also third last year in his class.
“All those guys have looked really good this year,” Steward said. “We have some experience in those upper weight classes with a few guys that have been wrestling for a while now, so they know what we expect from them and what we’re trying to do and that’s win a state championship. But Draven and Colt and Gavin are all doing a real nice job for us.”
Steward said they also have some younger guys in the lighter groups outstanding as well and he hopes they continue to improve with the stakes now getting higher just about every time his grapplers step on the mat.
Freshman Noah Chastain in the 106-pound, sophomore Thomas Young in the 113, junior Wade Parker in the 120, and sophomore Logan Moore at 132 have all been steady since the season began, winning a lot of matches and looking ready to chase medals in the wrestling postseason. And for Parker and Moore, it would be their second consecutive trip to state after they qualified last year
“All of those kids have done a nice job,” Steward said. “They’re all young, but I think they’re all getting better and working hard every day. You never how a freshman will do, but Noah has done real well. And Thomas and Wade and Logan have also done well in all our duals and traditional matches, so I think they’re excited about what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks and I know I am excited for them. It’s been fun to watch them get better and really start to understand what wrestling at this level is all about.”
So that leaves him still looking at candidates in the 126, 138, 145, 152, and 160 classes, although Steward has some flexibility there as Moore has wrestled at 138. He also used two different candidates in the 126 and 145 divisions last week at the 3A Area 6 Duals meet.
Stewards says they’ll figure it out because they have quality athletes.
“The good thing is we have some good wrestlers in those weight classes, we just still haven’t figured out who is the one wrestling the best right now, because that’s what we’re looking for,” Steward said. “We feel like whoever does get to wrestle in those weight classes over the next few weeks will do a good job for us and will help us get where we want to go, we’re just still looking at two or three kids in each of them and trying to see who will step up for us. And there has been some good competition between the kids that we’re still looking at, but it’s a process and so I think we’re close to figuring it all out, but we’re still looking at at least a couple of people in all those (weight) classes.”
The Phoenix were 2-2 last January at the GHSA state duals in Atlanta to finish fourth in the 3A classification.
They began state by defeating Adairsville, 51-24, but then lost to eventual state champ North Hall, 46-28, in the second round to drop out of contention. They bounced back from that loss to knock off Hart County, 41-26, and reach the third place match against current Area 6 foe Rockmart, which they lost, 48-36.