Buford's Chip Ness (Staff Photos: Brendan Sullivan)
Rob Carlyle was well aware of Chip Ness' resume before he became Buford's head coach this year.
"I really started to notice him when I was an assistant at Archer and started watching him at tournaments," Carlyle said.
Ness was a decorated youth wrestler, winning multiple kids state championships. He's continued that success in high school, winning a pair of Class AA state titles.
"In AA, you really don't notice a kid unless he stands out and he stood out," Carlyle said.
In his first two years of high school wrestling, Ness has been one of the state's most dominant wrestlers. He holds an 83-0 career record with 58 pins. Buford moved up to Class AAA this season and Ness expects some tougher competition, but plans to continue his dominant streak.
"I hope to do the same as last year," Ness said. "I think I'll have tougher competition, tougher tournaments, but I hope to keep it the same."
Ness started wrestling when he was in second grade when his father Richard, a state placer at Hardaway, signed him up for a youth practice.
Ness showed up in jeans and a sweatshirt and took down the team's top wrestler. He went on to place second at kids state that year.
"Ever since then it just clicked," Ness said.
Ness won the first of his five kids state title the following year.
That success continued at Buford where he was 36-0 as a freshman with 22 pins to win his first state title. He followed that up with a 47-0 record with 36 pins during his sophomore campaign.
"He's a tough kid and got after it," Carlyle said. "He was beating some upperclassmen. He's pretty tough."
Ness' success has also continued on the national level. He won the NHSCA freshman nationals and was third as a sophomore.
He's ranked No. 13 in the nation for juniors and seniors by Flo Wrestling and No. 2 for juniors by USA Wrestling magazine.
Ness was runner-up at the Cadet Freestyle National Championship in Fargo, N.D., this summer and his performance drew criticism.
"Flo Wrestling had an article that said Chip Ness is very ultra-talented, but lazy at some times," Ness said.
That was all the motivation he needed. He cut out the article and posted it on the mirror in his bathroom as a reminder.
"Honestly, I'll admit that. I was out of shape for Fargo," Ness said. "I tore a ligament in my knee, so I didn't train for three weeks. Then I trained for a week before Fargo. I barely got by and didn't wrestle my best. Once I saw that, I started working constantly."
Ness went to private wrestling lessons five or six days a week and worked on his mental toughness. The dedication worked as he placed fourth at the prestigious Super 32, a preseason wrestling tournament. Ness defeated Pennsylvania's Dakota Deslauriers, the No. 3 ranked wrestler in the country, in the quarterfinals.
"I did better than I expected probably because I trained the hardest in my life," Ness said.
Ness is bringing that hard-working mentality to the Buford wrestling room.
"He's a leader," Carlyle said. "He'll make sure no one is resting on the wall, he's a leader. He's a great asset to have around here. You want to feed your program around him because he's one of the toughest kids in the state and in the country and it's great to have him in the room."
Carlyle has scheduled a tough regular season schedule this year, which includes some out-of-state tournaments. The schedule likely will test Ness and his undefeated high school record.
"We're trying to find the toughest tournaments to make him a better wrestler and get him ready for college," Carlyle said. "I'm excited about what he's going to do the next two years."