photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
High school wrestling fans and followers alike know what it means to have come from one of the power states for youth wrestling. You’ve Pennsylvania, Iowa, California, Ohio as well as states like New Jersey, Illinois, and Minnesota.
But it’s another state from a non-traditional area that’s making waves. It’s time to talk about the state with potentially the best freshman class in the entire country. That’s right, it’s time to talk about Georgia.
The Peach state boasts five wrestlers in the top 50 of the Class of 2022 recruiting rankings and six in the top 100. That doesn’t even include David Harper, a Georgia native who attends Baylor School in Tennessee or Matthew Singleton, an NHSCA freshman champ and FloNats runner-up in both Greco and freestyle who will assuredly move into the next set of class rankings.
Leading the way in the 2022 class for the gaggle of Georgians is Valdosta’s Noah Pettigrew. Pettigrew, a freshman state champion, is one of three 195-pound wrestlings in the top 10 of the class of 2022 rankings. Noah is a returning Cadet Fargo champ at 195 pounds and is also a schoolboy Pan-Am champ in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
While he’s ranked third in the class rankings, he’s not the only Georgian in the top 10. Joining him and checking in at No. 9 is Woodland’s Caleb Henson. Henson was a state runner-up in Class 5A at 126 pounds to previously nationally ranked Jackson DiSario who was also the defending champ at the weight. In freestyle, he was a Southeast Regional runner-up to the aforementioned Singleton and a Fargo Cadet All-American.
Checking in at No. 34 in the class is Jaxon Smith. Smith, a teammate of Henson, went 53-0 this year in high school action on the way to a Class 5A state title at 145 pounds. Last summer he took fourth in Fargo at the Cadet level and he’ll be one of the favorites come July this time around.
Just behind him is Chase Horne. Horne, who comes in a No. 47 overall, actually lost to Pettigrew at 220 pounds in the Southeast Regional last summer. Horne was dominant in the state as a freshman, posting a 63-2 record on the way to a Class 4A state championship. In the state tournament, he pinned his first three opponents before picking up an 8-2 victory in the finals.
We round out the top 50 at No. 50 with Westfield School’s Porter Faulk. Faulk is a Tulsa Nationals and NHSCA middle school division champion, who won a Georgia Independent School Association state championship at 182 pounds.
Perhaps the most underrated member of the outstanding 2022 class from Georgia in No. 61 Michael Kilic. Kilic, an Open Mat Freshman All-American, was a state champion and an NHSCA champion at 132 pounds. He finished second last year in the Southeast Regional and reached the quarters in Fargo before being knocked out. This year, he was a placer in freestyle at FloNationals at the Cadet level and will look to make the Cadet world team this summer in Akron.
One name noticeably absent, as we discussed prior, was Kilic’s teammate Matthew Singleton.
Singleton dominated his way through the state tournament before winning NHSCA’s and taking home a runner-up spot at FloNationals. Additionally, he was a runner-up at last year’s Northeast Regional and the champion at the Southeast Regional. He enters this summer as one of the favorite’s in Fargo at the Cadet level.
With the emergence of clubs like Cliff Fretwell’s Compound Wrestling Club and the RTC South in Chattanooga, Tennessee wrestling will continue to take off in the southeast. If this Georgia freshman class reaches the heights it’s capable of, we could be looking at an emerging powerhouse of a state.