MACON — North Gwinnett’s Dianna Holmes, Duluth’s Aki Choates and Collins Hill’s Tiyahna Askew were already trailblazers of sorts after being part of the first group of girls to win state wrestling championships after the Georgia High School Association began awarding individual female division titles last year.
That trio continued to be pioneers by winning their respective weight classes Saturday at the Macon Centreplex to headline a group of the first two-time girls champions at this year’s state meet, though at least one member of the group doesn’t necessarily feel like a pioneer.
“It’s just another title as I keep working for bigger and better titles,” said Holmes, a junior who pinned Berkmar’s Ally Graham in 48 seconds to win an all-Gwinnett girls 112-pound final.
Joining Holmes as a two-time girls state champ were Choates, who won an 11-7 decision over Jatiana Ford of Alexander for the 132-pound title, and Askew, who scored a pin for Carrollton’s Drina Griggs in 1:09 to win at 152 pounds.
But it was the fourth member of Gwinnett’s quartet of girls champions who made the most dramatic history Saturday.
Meadowcreek’s Mi’Kel Jiles trailed her 197-pound championship match against Johnson of Gainesville’s Antonia Martinez 4-1 early in the third period before finding an opening and not only gaining a two-point reversal, but finishing off a pin in 4:40.
That result not only made Jiles a first-time state champ, it also made her the only the second Mustangs’ wrestler in school history, male or female, to win an individual state championship.
The only other member of that exclusive club was Alex Paucar, who won the Class AAAA 103-pound state title 28 years ago in 1992 while wrestling for legendary coach Cliff Ramos, and who was in attendance to witness Jiles’ victory.
“It’s sinking in right now,” Jiles said of her feat. “It did (take a while to realize the match was over) because I didn’t hear the whistle. When I was down (in the match), I was like, ‘I’ve worked too hard. … I’ve put in a lot of hours, … and I wasn’t going to lose.
“It was a really good match. I’m proud of myself. (Paucar) came to me before I wrestled and said, ‘Do this for me, for you and our school. It’s been almost 30 years.”
Runner-up finish proves to be Lanier landmark
Lanier’s Zander Clark didn’t quite reach the height that Gwinnett’s other state champions did Saturday, though he did make history of his own.
The senior’s runner-up finish at 145 pounds in Class AAAAAA made him the first Longhorns individual to reach the state finals.
And while his technical fall loss to Drew Eller of Evans wasn’t the end to the season he was hoping for, he’s hardly the only opponent who didn’t fare well against Eller, who completed his high school career with a perfect 208-0 record with four state titles.
Spikes leaves it on the mat for another title and to extend streakIt has been a long time since Garrett Spikes has been defeated on the wrestling mat. In fact, one has to got to go back a year and two months since the last time an opponent has gotten the best of the Mountain View senior.
That streak was very much in jeopardy during his Class AAAAAAA 182-pound state championship match against Tift County’s Gerald Conley.
But despite trailing a couple of times, the Bears’ three-sport standout rallied to regain the lead, and then fight off Conley and fatigue to hold on for a 10-8 decision.
It was the closest anyone has come to knocking him off since his last loss some 67 matches ago during an out-of-state tournament in which he finished third back on Dec. 15, 2018.
“That was definitely my toughest match of (this) season,” Spikes admitted. “I was sick earlier this week, but that’s not to take anything away from (Conley). He’s a great wrestler. He definitely outworked me (throughout the match) and put up a good fight.
“I was really tired, but I knew the score in the last period. I knew I didn’t have to do too much, just play it safe. A win’s a win.”
It was actually a special win for Spikes, as it was the last of his competitive career before he suits up for Mountain View’s baseball team this spring, and then heads off to continue his career on the diamond either in college at Georgia or professionally if he gets drafted high enough.
While he thought about continuing a longstanding tradition in which a wrestler leaves his shoes on the mat following the final match of his career, Spikes says there is one simple reason he didn’t.
“I was just too tired,” he said.