Buford’s Chip Ness is already one of the best wrestlers in the state. Now, he wants to be one of the best in the nation.
Now a three-time state champion, Ness began proving himself at a young age. When he was just seven years old, he received a flyer for a Collins Hill youth wrestling program in a folder at school. Since his dad wrestled in high school, Ness decided to give it a shot.
“Basically, I showed up and took down some kid who were supposed to be really good,” Ness said. “I went from there and have enjoyed it ever since.”
Since then, Ness has only been improving and won his first state title as a freshman at Buford.
“That was the toughest for me,” Ness said. “I wasn’t predicted to win, so I overcame a lot of doubts to do that.”
This season, as a junior, Ness won his third straight title and finished the year with a 54-1 record. His only loss came at the Maynard Duals against the No. 1 wrestler in the nation from Pope High.
For his efforts, Ness is The Times Wrestler of the Year.
From a spectator’s point of view, it may have seemed like Ness won in the finals easily, but for him, it was all about preparation.
“I was really well prepared for him because he upset the guy from Morgan County that I was expecting to wrestle,” Ness said. “I just had to keep calm and not make any mistakes.”
Part of Ness’s skill comes from extensive training. He has worked with everyone from private coaches to NCAA Division I national champions like Raymond Gordon.
“I’ve really worked on perfecting technique and analyzing the mental game,” Ness said. “I have to be able to dominate and show that I’m still improving. I definitely want to be No. 1 by next year.”
Ness never stops working on his technique and mental awareness. Even while on break to watch the NCAA wrestling championships in Iowa, Ness found time and opportunity to get on the mat.
“I just came to see a bunch of good technique,” Ness said. “But I got a chance to practice with the Olympic wrestling team yesterday, and I wrestled pretty strong against the defending national champion.”
He works every year on turning his weaknesses into strengths, and now Ness uses these covertly to shock his opponents.
“I do really well with the element of surprise,” Ness said. “I don’t look that intimidating, but I have a lot of mat awareness. I know where I am at all times.
“My coaches helped me set up my shots and analyze how everything is going when they’re out of position. The low single is the main shot I do for takedowns, and I have a higher shot percentage because I can tell when they’re out of position.”
Ness doesn’t make many mistakes, but when he does, he knows how to correct them before his opponent is able to do any damage. In his one loss, Ness said he wrestled well, and he knows he needs to keep doing the same things he does now, but losing took some of the pressure off of the Buford star.
“It made me feel like it was okay for me to lose,” Ness said. “It really helped me, and I became mentally tougher because of it. Now, I go out with the mindset that it’s not possible for me to lose.”
His mindset is certainly effective considering losing is not a frequent occurrence for Ness, and over the next year he will continue to work towards getting yet another state title along with finding the right collegiate program.
Picking just one right now, however, is a difficult task for Ness.
“I can narrow it down to about six,” Ness said. “Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, Missouri and Iowa State are ones I’m considering.
“I want to go to a good program, but academics are important too, and I want to be able to start wrestling early as a freshman or a sophomore.”