Central Gwinnett wrestler Jacob Aiken-Phillips is the favorite to win the 285-pound title at the Gwinnett County championships this weekend. He's 23-0 on the season with 20 pins.
Why tire yourself out wrestling for six minutes when a pin can get it done so much quicker?
That's the philosophy Central Gwinnett wrestler Jacob Aiken-Phillips has adopted.
The junior set the Gwinnett County pin record last year and is on a tear again this season. All of his wins have come by pin this season.
"I just want to be known for the wins, but pinning is easier," Aiken-Phillips said. "I don't have tire myself out."
At 240 pounds and wrestling in the 285-pound heavyweight division, Aiken-Phillips relies on his quickness and athleticism. That worked for him last year as he racked up a county record 48 pins and a 56-6 record.
"I have a size disadvantage, but I'm usually better conditioned and faster," Aiken-Phillips said.
He's off to another tear this season with a 23-0 record with 20 pins and is the favorite to win the 285-pound Gwinnett County title this weekend. Even more impressive is no one has scored on him this season.
"I think he's just well-rounded," first-year Central Gwinnett coach Tom Bartolotta said. "He has strength, quickness, excellent technique. He's the total package."
Aiken-Phillips started wrestling in seventh grade and won a Big Kids state title as an eighth-grader. He placed fourth at county as a freshman and won the Area 8-AAAAA title.
He took third at county last season, won a second area title and placed fourth at the state meet, beating the tournament favorite in the wrestlebacks to earn a medal.
"Freshman year surprised me because I thought it would be a big difference from middle school to high school," Aiken-Phillips said. "I already knew I was good sophomore (year), so I expected to do better."
The expectations are a little higher for Aiken-Phillips this season. He's the top returning placer from a senior-laden weight class last season. Collins Hill's Thomas DeLain, who took fifth, also returns. But Aiken-Phillips is the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight state title this season. The Black Knights have not had a state champ since Dennis Mack in 1997 won the 112-pound title.
"If he doesn't win state it will be a disappointment," Bartolotta said. "It's not pressure on him, it's pressure on everyone else, they are the ones that have to go out and wrestle him."
Aiken-Phillips has managed to be a standout wrestler while juggling his other hobbies. He started on Central's offensive line this season and has the physical tools to be a college prospect. He cut off his rock band hair his freshman year after it became too much to deal with, but still loves his music. He plays the guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet and performs at local venues like the Lunch Box in downtown Lawrenceville. His musical influence is rock bands System of a Down and Slipknot. He also likes to drawing, mainly portraits of his friends.
But his passion is wrestling and he has one goal for this season.
"I want to be a state champion," he said.
A county and region title would be nice as well, but a state title is the focus.
That's what he talked about with Bartolotta over the summer when the coach was introduced as the Black Knights' wrestling coach.
"He was very enthusiastic, eager, he really had a want. I kind of got that from his voice. He had a real want and real desire for the sport and to get better," Bartolotta said. "Fourth in state last year as a sophomore in a very good weight class and from that phone conversation when I talked to him he wants to be the best."