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Area Wrestler of the Year: Buford's Chip Ness

UNC bound senior won individual state title all four years of high school

POSTED: April 5, 2014 10:05 p.m.

As Buford’s Chip Ness went through drills practicing for his final state tournament in February, he broke out into a grin. Wolves coach Rob Carlyle wanted to know what was so funny.

“I just love wrestling,” Carlyle recalled as Ness’ response, just days prior to winning his fourth individual state title.

That, Carlyle said, is Ness in a nutshell: A kid that spent four years pouring his heart and soul into the Wolves’ wrestling program and serving as the anchor of its first-ever duals and traditionals state titles in 2014.

Buford’s 195 pounder, ranked No. 1 nationally in his weight class, leaves high school as only the state’s 28th wrestler to claim four state titles, a 168-1 career record with 114 pins and a perfect 31-0 mark as a senior.

For his efforts, Ness is The Times Wrestler of the Year.

Ness also remembers that day in the wrestling room when he broke out into the big smile. He was wrestling his 220-pound teammate Justin Laredo.

While winning another state title was first and foremost in Ness’ mind at that moment, the finality of his high school days was starting to sink in after dominating on the mat since he burst onto the scene as a 152-pound champion in his freshman year.

“I knew then that my days of wrestling in high school were numbered and I was just wanting to take it all in,” said Ness, who will wrestle at the University of North Carolina starting in the fall.

Success for Ness has not only happened inside the state but also nationally, a testament, he says, to the constant positive reinforcement of his father Richard.

When he was 10, Ness wasn’t having the kind of success he would like in wrestling, even though he knew he was already hooked on the idea of winning or losing on your own in the sport.

“My dad always told me that the plan was going to be where I was ready to peak by my senior year of high school,” Ness said.

And peak he did.

Even though Ness intends to continue to get better as a Tar Heel in Chapel Hill, with plans to become a four-time All-American, his senior year of high school couldn’t have gone any better.

Ness says his biggest achievement as a high school senior came on March 16 in Pittsburgh, when he won his match in the prestigious Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, which puts the nation’s top wrestlers against Pennsylvania state champions.

In 40 years of the event — touted as the ‘Rose Bowl of Wrestling’ on its website — Ness is only the second champion from Georgia, following in the footsteps of Harrison High grad and four-time state champion Sean Hage (1995).

“Winning the Dapper Dan means so much because it’s such a prestigious honor,” said Ness, who had to work his way back onto the mat this season after missing six weeks with an ankle injury.

According to Ness, he’s just the sixth wrestler from the state to participate at the Dapper Dan. Upon hearing the news he was selected, his first instinct was to let his father know.

“When I told my dad, he was just jumping with joy,” Ness said.

Ness said the end of his high school wrestling career will come at the Cliff Keen National Duals on April 13 at Lassiter High in Marietta.

This event will feature a Georgia vs. US format, based on the belief that the Peach State is currently one of the top in the nation among the high school ranks. Ness will get to wrestle at 182 pounds in this premier national showcase.

Earlier this season in Pennsylvania, Ness became the first wrestler from the state to win at the Powerade Invitational, which is also where he earned the No. 1 national ranking at 195. Before the season began, Ness racked up a win at the Super 32 Challenge on Nov. 2 in North Carolina.

Even with all of his personal achievements, Ness said he will fondly remember being part of Buford’s team.

Leaving as the most decorated wrestler in school history, he was one of six state champs the Wolves had at the traditional state meet on their own gym floor for the Class AAA state championships on Feb. 23.

In high school, Ness won a state title in a heavier weight class every season, starting at 152, then 170 as a sophomore, 182 as a junior and 195 in 2014.

“It was a lot of fun to watch Chip wrestle during the two years I coached him,” Carlyle said. “He always put in the work he needed to do in order to become the best.

“You can’t just come to practice and expect to be a champion ... No one in the state was on his level.”

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