Gibbs High wrestling team makes history

Shannon CareyNortheast Knox

Gibbs High School’s wrestling team had a banner year, even making Knox County history. The boys’ team won the A/AA state championship in the duals tournament, then returned for the state A/AA individuals tournament and came home with the state individuals title, too. Coach Tim Pittman said Gibbs is the first Knox County school to do so.

“We had a really good team this year,” he said. “I think they brought a lot to the table.”

Gibbs High School wrestler Noel Leyva (left) squares off against his opponent in the state individuals tournament.

Winning first in their weigh divisions were Landon Adzima, Matthew Maxwell, Noel Leyva and Isaiah Brooks. Placing in the top six in their weigh divisions were George Gillman and Elijah Lawson in third place, and John-Aiden Pittman and Connor Griffin in fifth place. On the Gibbs girls’ wrestling team, Kim Garcia placed fourth in the state in her weight division.

That combo brought almost 176 individuals points to Gibbs, placing them above Chapel Hill’s Forrest High.

Pittman said a change in TSSAA classification helped Gibbs grab the two state wins. They moved from AAA to A-AA this year. He also credited robust support from the school administration, an active feeder program and hard work on the part of the students.

“I came in 2000 and took the reins from Scott Witt,” Pittman said. “At that time the principal was (Jim) Pryor. He was an incredible guy, got us a good wrestling room. He was an old wrestling coach at Carter High. It’s just been an incredible place to work. The administration is supportive, and we’ve got great kids.”

The feeder program makes sure that wrestlers coming to Gibbs High have several years of experience.

“This year, all those qualities just added up,” Pittman said.

There’s been a wrestling team for girls at Gibbs for only two years, but this year’s team is seven strong. Last year saw a female wrestler from Gibbs place at state, too. Pittman called it “the second-fastest growing girls sport in the nation.”

Pittman recognized team captains Adzima, Maxwell and Garcia for their leadership this season.

“They were the first ones to finish in running, and they just really stepped up to the plate,” he said. “They were just really good leaders for bringing the team together and making sure we finish the practices. I can’t say enough about those kids.

He also thanked team managers Payton Satterfield, Breana Benton and Haleigh Jacobs, along with assistant coaches Joe Reep, Phillip Maxwell, Stephen Jackson, Spencer Bailey and Troy Long. Parent volunteers also helped boost the team, including Lisa Jackson, the Garcias, Leyvas and Adzimas, Kelly Griffin and Heather Kooch.

“It’s amazing how much they pull together and support the team,” Pittman said. “It takes a village. They make the coaches look good.”

Pittman expects the Gibbs wrestlers to turn in a strong showing in 2019, too. On the boys’ team, four state medalists will return. Those are Pittman, Brooks, Gillman and Griffin. On the girls team, he expects six returning wrestlers.

“We’ll be young but strong,” he said.

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