MACON, Ga. — If Eli Knight felt any pressure with a team state championship possibly on the line, there was no indication. He was, as it turns out, just angry.
The Sonoraville freshman wrestler trailed early in the Class AAA 106-pound final Saturday in the GHSA state traditional tournament at the Centreplex, and his opponent was from the school trying to overtake the Phoenix for the team lead. Instead of panicking, Knight scored a quick reversal and took control for a 5-2 win that clinched the team championship.
It's the first team state title in any sport for the Gordon County school, which opened in 2005.
"He took me down first and I got a little upset about that, so I got up and got a reversal, and I thought I had him pinned," Knight — who had lost to the same wrestler, North Hall's Jack Whitmire, just two weeks ago at state duals — said with a shrug. "I knew after he beat me 11-1 in the duals I had a lot of work to do, and that motivated me a lot.
"I knew if I won, it would seal the deal. It means so much to Coach, so I wanted to do it for him."
After Knight, 2017 individual state champions Tyler Hunt (132) and Trevor Burdick (138) each added another title to help the Phoenix score 132 points as they finished ahead of region rival Bremen by 12 and state duals champ North Hall by 15.
Sonoraville, which also benefited from John Knight's runner-up finish at 195, accomplished the title run with only eight competitors, a rare feat that made the championship even more meaningful to coach Randy Steward.
"It just started to sink in," Steward said. "To think we did it with only eight kids. Everybody said you can't do it with just eight kids, but these kids were ready, and that's all you can ask for. Everybody contributed to get this, and it's just great to know these kids just made history.
"You know, I've been doing this about 35 years at the college and high school levels, and I've never won a team title. "
Sonoraville had seven wrestlers still competing entering Saturday, when all of the matches were to determine the final places on the medal stand. However, Hector Arbos (113), Allen Stone (120) and Charlie Brown (182) lost third-place matches as their team's formerly comfortable lead over North Hall shrank to five points.
That meant the 106-pound match, the only two between the teams on Saturday, was pivotal.
"We didn't do a thing to help ourselves this morning, so we were definitely concerned," Steward said. "I just wanted it to be over. The North Hall kid takes Eli down right away, and we're thinking, 'Oh, here it goes again.'
"But Eli, who is a really ornery, ornery kid, just rallied and dominated. That got everybody going, and with Tyler and Trevor coming up, we felt pretty good."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.