SWD wrestlers win several state championships
Southwest DeKalb High School wrestlers Isaiah Scott, Jerrel Baskins, and Dharrin Smith won state championships on Feb. 18 in Macon, while teammate Jayden Hammonds was a runner-up for the Southwest DeKalb Panthers and head coach Keith Johnson.
The individual state championships for Scott (4A-215 weight class), Baskins (4A-175), and Smith (4A-157) marked Southwest DeKalb’s wrestling program’s first state championships since Rock Ya-Sin—now a defensive back for the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders—won a title in 2014.
The state titles combined with Hammonds’ (4A-138) second place finish also gave Southwest DeKalb a third overall finish in 4A – which Johnson said was especially impressive with the Panthers’ competitors having several more wrestlers than Southwest DeKalb.
“It felt very exciting. It was amazing,” said Johnson. “These kids worked hard over the years. They wanted to be state champs. Whenever we win a region or win a state championship, we put a banner up. Those kids look at the banners every day and they want to be a part of that.”
The championships and runner up finishes come after Scott—who was an All-American last season as a sophomore—completed a perfect 35-0 season, Baskins finished at 27-0, and Hammonds and Smith both finished at 29-2.
In the state championship finals, Hammonds fell to Braydon Bowen of Troup High School, Smith defeated Tim Dunn of Troup High School, Baskins won over Evan Wingrove of Heritage Catoosa High School, and Scott won against Parker Warren of Walnut Grove High School.
Earlier this season, high-ranking individual performances from the same four also propelled Southwest DeKalb to four sectional championships.
“It was tight; it was good competition. But with us coming from 5A to 4A, I don’t think they had a clue about what south DeKalb County brings to the table. Like I said, my Four Horsemen got the job done,” added Johnson.
Johnson added that the state title was special for Southwest DeKalb because the wrestling program is small but has had the same coaching staff and support system since 2005.
“The coaches and kids trust each other. It’s all about trust to make this happen. They believe in our coaching staff and what we bring to the table,” said Johnson. “They came together as a team and motivated each other. We’re a small team, so us sticking together as a family is important.”
Joshua Bass, Charles McKinney Jr., Bernard Warren, and James Grayson make up the coaching staff, in addition to Johnson. Johnson said none of the coaches work as teachers or administrators at Southwest DeKalb, which he added makes the team’s comradery even more impressive.
The wrestling coach also established a wrestling program at Chapel Hill Middle School—Southwest DeKalb’s feeder school—where he coaches the middle school football team.
Johnson said all five members of the inaugural middle school team were on Southwest DeKalb’s freshman wrestling team this season. He said that he hopes the state championships bring more attention and more interest to both the middle school and high school wrestling programs.
The other top three finish for DeKalb County School District wrestler came from Columbia’s Thawbaan As-Siddiq (36-3) who reached the Class 2A finals in the 126-weight class. He defeated East Jackson’s Joshua Smith (33-7) in a 4-3 decision to reach the championship round. Rockmart’s Gunner Chambers (37-1) managed to pin As-Siddiq early in the match to prevent another gold from coming home to DeKalb.
Arabia Mountain had a pair of wrestlers finish in the top six as Malik Conley (28-6) in 157 and Langston Blakely (34-10) in 175 both advanced to the state semifinals in Class 5A. Both wrestlers fell in the consolation finals.