Jonathan Ragsdale

Gordon Lee's four-time state champion, Jonathan Ragsdale, is the Walker County Wrestler of the Year for the third straight season. Ragsdale will wrestle for West Virginia University next year. (Messenger photo/Scott Herpst).

Slam dunks are not a part of high school wrestling, but in this case an exception has to be made.

While Walker County had some outstanding performances on the mat this past season in, choosing the best of the best was easier than finding a old, discarded slice of orange in the bleachers after a wrestling tournament.

For the third year in a row, Gordon Lee’s Jonathan Ragsdale has been named this year’s Walker County Wrestler of the Year.

Ragsdale not only became the 30th prep wrestler in Georgia history to win four consecutive state titles, he was absolutely dominant in doing so.

“My freshman year, I didn’t really expect to win (state), although I went into it hoping I could,” Ragsdale explained. “When I won, I started thinking that maybe I had a shot at winning four of them. It’s an honor to know I’m part of a small group that accomplished something that big.”

He concluded his high school career by winning his last 137 matches, with virtually all of them coming by major decision, tech fall or pin. In just about every one of those matches, the only points he gave up were one-point escapes that he willingly allowed.

Nowhere was his dominance more on display than at the state finals. He went 12-0 at the state finals in four years, winning six matches by pin, five by major decision and one via tech fall. In five of the matches, he scored either 22 or 25 points.

“Johnny’s a competitor,” Gordon Lee head coach Brent Raby said. “He just doesn’t want to lose. He’s wrestled a lot of good wrestlers this season and he’s made all of them look not so good. People usually don’t make it too long (on the mat) against him.”

It was in middle school, and even earlier, that Ragsdale said wrestling began to “click” for him. He began putting in extra work - many times two workouts a day - and later added weightlifting in the summer for strength. The weightlifting eventually paid off in the form of a national championship in 2012.

It also paid off on the mat as he amassed a final overall high school record of 216-8. Seven of those losses came early in his freshman season.

Over the past three years, he went 156-1 with the only loss coming to Nathan Boston in a tournament in Kentucky his sophomore year. Boston, at the time, was ranked No. 1 in the nation in his weight class.

Ragsdale earned All-American honors as a junior and he capped his Gordon Lee career with back-to-back, unbeaten 54-0 seasons and over 1,000 career takedowns. He finished the year ranked ninth in the nation at 120 pounds by Wrestling USA.

“Other kids have come through (Georgia) that have had a little more prestige and there have been other four-time state champions that have won more matches,” Raby added. “But few kids have ever been as dominant as Johnny. I think he’s as good as we’ve had in north Georgia and one of the best ever in the state as far as I’m concerned.”

Up next is college where Ragsdale will suit up for Coach Sammie Henson and the West Virginia Mountaineers of the always-competitive Big XII Conference.

“A lot of people used to say he’s too small, but I think he’s answered all those questions now,” Raby said. “He’s small, but he’s stout. He’s strong and he works hard and if he just keeps working hard, and I know he wants to, then I think he’ll do well up there.”


Tyler Beard (LaFayette, 113) — Just a freshman, Beard came on strong late in the year for the Ramblers, qualifying for sectionals after a fourth-place finish in the Area tournament.

Jake Clayton (Ridgeland, 120) — The sophomore went 26-17 on the year and earned his first trip to the state sectionals after placing fourth in the Area 7-AAAA tournament.

Dallas Goodlet (Gordon Lee, 220) — The senior recovered from an early ankle injury to take third in the Area 3-AA tournament and fourth at the East Sectionals to qualify for state.

Chris Henderson (Ridgeland, 220) — After finishing fifth in state as a freshman at 285, the Panther went 43-8, winning area and sectional titles before finishing second at state.

Braden Jarvis (Gordon Lee, 145) — Only a freshman, big things are in store after a 42-17 rookie season that saw him win an area title and place third at sectionals to qualify for state.

Stihl Lance (Gordon Lee, 132) — The senior scored a lot of points for the Trojans over the year and finished third in the area before going on to take fifth at sectionals.

Matt Lemons (LaFayette, 138) — The senior capped his career with a 29-14 mark this past season, including runner-up finishes at area and sectionals before placing sixth at state.

Caleb Mariakis (Ridgeland, 138) — The West Virginia-bound senior went 48-2 and won several tournaments, including area and sectionals before finishing runner-up at state.

Ryan McGill (Ridgeland, 145) — An up-and-coming grappler, the freshman had a solid showing this season, going 21-14 with a fourth-place area finish and a sectional berth.

Zack Murdock (Gordon Lee, 126) — After a solid freshman season, the sophomore went on to place fourth in the Area 3-AA tournament before taking fifth at sectionals.

Cameron Nunley (Ridgeland, 285) — The sophomore won his fair share of matches for the Panthers this season, taking fourth in the area to qualify for the sectionals.

Dylan Oliver (LaFayette, 120) — The senior finished third in the area tournament, got through the sectionals and battled to earn a sixth-place podium spot in Macon.

Sydny Rhinehart (Gordon Lee, 160) — One of the senior leaders for the Trojans, he claimed an area title before finishing the season with a fifth- place showing at sectionals.

Wyatt Shepard (Gordon Lee, 182) — It was a big year for the senior, who was second at the McCallie Invitational, third at the area tournament and fifth at sectionals.

Wes Storey (LaFayette, 160) — The junior was a mainstay in the lineup for the Ramblers and went on to place fourth in the Area 7-AAAA tournament to qualify for sectionals.

Xzavia Underwood (LaFayette, 182) — The senior ended his prep career by taking fourth in the area tournament and earning a ninth-place finish at the Class 4A West Sectionals.

The Walker County Wrestling Dream Team was selected by Walker County Messenger Sports Editor Scott Herpst based on performances during the season. Text and photo by Scott Herpst.


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