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Wrestling Coach of the Year: Banks County's Kasey Hanley
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Kasey Hanley says it was a perfect storm. In his eighth season as wrestling coach at Banks County, Hanley guided the program to the duals state championship and third-place finish at the traditional meet this season. It was not only the school’s first wrestling title, but also the school’s first in any team sport, Hanley said.

The success for Banks County in 2013 didn’t just happen on the biggest stage: The Leopards did a nice job of dominating from start to finish. Banks County won the Area 4-AAA title, placed first in a handful of prominent duals meets and finished with a 30-1 record in team meets. For his efforts, Hanley is The Times Wrestling Coach of the Year.

“I knew this team had a chance to be special,” Hanley said. “The biggest thing is that we didn’t have any weak spots on the team.”

Consistency is a big key with 14 different weight classes part of the team. The Leopards seemed to have them covered for the most part. After winning the team title in Macon, the Leopards had six different wrestlers take spots on the podium for their performance at the individual championships at Macon in February.

Freshman Chris McCrackin captured the state championship for Banks County in Class AAA at 106 pounds, the school’s first individual state champion since 1989. Senior Mason Patton (126), junior Wes Faulkner (160) and senior Eli Smallwood (170) all grabbed state runner-up spots. Banks County also had a pair of fifth place finishers.

Hanley says that his five seniors, including Taylor Wood, Patton, Smallwood, Hayden Dilbeck and Francisco Hurtado were the backbone of his program, providing great leadership and understanding the expectations to perform at a high level.

However, Banks County’s coach is also just as excited looking forward to next season with three state placers (McCrackin, Wes Faulkner and Matt Dilbeck) coming back along with a definite buzz around the program from earning the state title.

“We’ve never had three state placers coming back the next season,” Hanley said.

The Leopards have been building for some time to make it to the state championship platform. Two years ago, Banks County finished fourth at the duals state meet.

Banks County’s coach points out that his job would be a much more difficult task without the guidance and knowledge of his assistant coaches Sam Baxter, Mark Crook, Tyson Baxter and Adam Nichols.

Hanley also wants to build a strong program at Banks County starting with kids at the instructional level. Adding to those numbers will be counted on for depth at the varsity level for years to come.

“Wrestling is a brotherhood,” Hanley said. “Once you’re in the program, you’re automatically a Leopard.”

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