Mat Pan­thers count­ing on se­niors to show the way

The Catoosa County News - - SPORTS - By Scott Herpst sherpst@npco.com

The past few sea­sons have seen the Ridge­land High School wrestling team con­tinue to make a name for it­self, both on the re­gional and state lev­els and head coach Keith Mari­akis hopes that trend will con­tinue this time around.

“Stay­ing healthy is the big­gest thing,” he said. “We put to­gether an­other tough sched­ule and we may kind of pick and choose. We’ve got a tough road to hoe, es­pe­cially in De­cem­ber, so we might let some of them have a week­end off just to rest their bod­ies a lit­tle bit. We’ll just have to see how things go.”

Ridge­land’s nu­cleus will be made up of its five-mem­ber se­nior class, which in­cludes Dy­lan Swan­son, Jor­dan Hugh­ley, Chris Prescott and two-time state cham­pion Ja­cob Mari­akis, who re­cently com­mit­ted to wrestling at Chat­tanooga.

Mari­akis said Prescott would likely wres­tle at ei­ther 120 or 126 pounds, while Hugh­ley most likely will go be­tween 138 and 145. Ja­cob Mari­akis is locked in at 152, while Swan­son could be at 160 or 170, de­pend­ing on how the lineup falls. The coach said he is look­ing for­ward to see­ing what the Pan­thers can do with all four in the lineup and healthy.

“Be­cause of past in­juries, those four have only been in the same lineup once and that was at the area tour­na­ment their sopho­more year,” he said. “Those guys are go­ing to be big pointscor­ers for us and then we added a fifth se­nior this year in An­gel Ojeda (138-145). He’s never wres­tled in high school be­fore, but to be hon­est with you, the kid looks like he’s been wrestling ev­ery year in high school. He’s re­ally pretty slick out there.”

Mari­akis said the se­nior class is a big rea­son why the Ridge­land pro­gram is where it is right now.

“They were part of the first team to win the Walker County Cup as ninth graders and they were a big rea­son why we went to State Duals (in 2017). Their fresh­man year, we fin­ished 14th in the state. We fin­ished eighth in the state when they were sopho­mores and sev­enth last year. They’ve made a steady climb and set a ma­jor foun­da­tion for us.

“That first group that I had when I came back to Ridge­land a few years ago, wow. What a great group of kids. This se­nior class that we have now is just as hard-work­ing and ta­lented. I can see all of those guys fin­ish­ing high on the podium at state.”

A small ju­nior class will par­tially con­sist of Ethan Mor­gan and Dy­lan Fowler. Mor­gan was one win away from qual­i­fy­ing for sec­tion­als last year, while Fowler wres­tled well in some var­sity matches. The other ju­nior is T.J. White, who is re­turn­ing to the team af­ter last wrestling as a fresh­man.

Mari­akis is also high on a solid group of sopho­mores, in­clud­ing Gar­rett Ro­mans, Ai­den Raymer, Kyle Brown, Da­gan Turner, T.J. Ad­kins and Tommy Lamb, while the vet­eran coach said he’s also been im­pressed with some of the fresh­men who have been wrestling with the pro­gram since the sum­mer. Some of those who will likely see sig- nif­i­cant matches this sea­son in­clude Eli­jah Langston, Scott Cope, Cameron Bain, Eli­jah O’shields, Josh Net­tles and Zackary Sain.

As has been the case for sev­eral years now, Mari­akis’ old­est son Josh will serve as the chief as­sis­tant coach.

“Josh re­ally runs the show,” Mari­akis added. “I’m there to make sure ev­ery­thing goes right, but he re­ally does a lot of the teach­ing on the team. He runs the prac­tices and he’s a lot of the rea­son our kids are at where they are at. He does a great job with them.”

Mari­akis ex­pects an­other tough year in 6-AAAA and says the key will be mak­ing sure he has the right wrestlers in the right spots.

“Our big­gest thing is just to get ev­ery­body in the right weight classes,” he said. “We’ve got to get ev­ery­body where they need to go to fit in all the pieces of the puz­zle to make us the best we can be.”

/ Con­trib­uted

Ridge­land se­niors Chris Prescott, An­gel Ojeda, Jor­dan Hugh­ley, Ja­cob Mari­akis and Dy­lan Swan­son will pro­vide the back­bone for the Panther wrestling team dur­ing the 2018-2019 sea­son.

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