MACON, Ga. — Will Jacks knew what was on the line, and early in the Gordon Lee High School junior's wrestling championship match Saturday, the clarity of the moment took over.
With a win against Holy Innocents' rival Liam Quigley at the GHSA traditional state tournament, Jacks not only would claim a state championship medal but also would clinch the team title for the Trojans against the team they would love nothing better than to beat. The match, however, did not start well.
A potential two-point takedown was disallowed, but Jacks recovered, nearly pinned his foe and walked away with a title-clinching 11-4 win.
"It felt good to win, but it feels better to help win the team title," said Jacks, whose team outdistanced the Golden Bears 187 points to 171 for the school's first traditional team title. "We had some rough matches earlier in the day, but we met before the finals round and promised each other we would take it home, and we did."
Joining Jacks with individual titles for the Trojans were senior Alex Spires, winning his third, and sophomore Johnny Ragsdale, getting his second in usual dominating fashion. It was after the 113-pounder recorded 14 takedowns in his 25-10 win that Gordon Lee coach Brent Raby allowed himself to smile.
"It seems every match that we wrestle turns into a dogfight, and this weekend was no different," said Raby, who also got runner-up finishes by Stihl Lance (106 pounds), Blake Clayton (120), Shane Farmer (182) and Corey Jewell (195). "This is the first traditional we've won, so this group has a special place.
"There are some people who doubt Gordon Lee wrestling and Class A wrestling in Georgia. Just look at Johnny Ragsdale. He's got over 300 takedowns this year. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is. This team has earned some respect."
Also winning a team title was Gilmer County in Class AAAA. The Bobcats of coach Sam Snider won their 11 state title with 182.5 points to beat second-place Carrollton by 21.5. Gilmer had individual champions in Cameron Perry (126) and Johnie Flakes (138), each winning his second title, had three runners-up and had nine wrestlers place.
"We had some kids get in the finals that we didn't expect, and we've never placed nine before, so this was a great weekend," Snider said. "I'm so proud of these kids. Our depth was the key, and that says that, If you're in this program, you're going to go against good competition every day. It's like our 120-pounder (Harrison), this is the first time he's been on varsity and he gets in the state finals."
Two other area wrestlers earned individual titles, Southeast Whitfield's Carlos Faire at 220 pounds in Class AAAA and Chattooga's J.J. Blankenship at 126 pounds in Class AA, completing an undefeated season.
Other area runners-up were Heritage's Isaiah Knight (113) and Michael Moore (182) in AAAA and Ringgold's Sam Sheppard (120) and Sonoraville's Cody Kuhn (152) in AAA.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...