Mat Panthers counting on seniors to show the way
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.”
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.