It might be hard for Rob Carlyle to match what he accomplished this season as Buford’s wrestling coach, but he’s eager to give it a shot. Led by four-time state champion Chip Ness, the Wolves capped off a historic season with Class AAA state titles both in duals and traditionals in 2014.
“It’s really special to be able to do both in the same season,” the second-year Buford coach said. “Through all the hard work the guys put in during practice and tournaments, it just kind of came together for us.”
For his efforts, Carlyle is The Times Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Carlyle was responsible for many high marks in Buford wrestling this season. The Wolves not only won a pair of team titles, but also finished with six individual state champions (Eli Hartley, 106 pounds; Darius Bunch, 120; Jack Barber, 126; Brayden Hartley, 132; Rudy Guillen, 145 and Ness, the nation’s top-ranked 195-pounder).
With Ness as a centerpiece for the team, Carlyle knew he had a catalyst for the rest of the program. Ness knew it was also one of his roles to motivate the talented bunch that won a tandem of titles, including the traditional meet in Buford’s gym on Feb. 23.
“We certainly built the team around Chip,” Carlyle said. “It was kind of like a domino effect.
“He was a guy I could lean on to help make everyone around him better.”
In turn, Ness tips his hat to the advice and motivation that Buford’s coach gave him to never rest on his laurels.
“Coach Carlyle helped me stay optimistic and helped show me I always had the potential to get better,” said Ness, who will wrestle at the University of North Carolina next season.
Carlyle knew he always wanted to be around wrestling since his standout high school career at Stockbridge High, even though it was far from a direct path to coaching from high school.
He won a state title his senior year of high school and went on to Anderson College, but left after a semester to go into the military. The Wolves’ coach spent eight years serving in the Navy before going back to school in his late 20s to also wrestle at Cumberland University.
“When I went back to school and was older and more mature, I knew I was going to get back into coaching,” Carlyle said.
Before moving to Buford, he spent two years coaching and teaching at Archer High in Gwinnett County.
Even with a wealth of experience this season at Buford, Carlyle couldn’t have known the program would double-dip with two state titles.
Ness missed much of the early part of the season when he injured his ankle but, slowly, the team started to gel throughout all 14 weight classes. At the traditional state meet, the Wolves had eight grapplers place individually.
Carlyle believes the foundation for success has now been put into place at Buford, even though it will be without Ness going forward.
The coach hopes the younger wrestlers have seen the example Ness set for the program — and school’s entire athletic history — and will continue to feed off his example in the future.