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Knapp ends career as one of Eagles' all-time greats

Taylor Knapp knows the rich history of the Collins Hill wrestling program.

He can rattle off the names of the school's most accomplished wrestlers and knows where they stand in the school record book.

After winning his third Class AAAAA state championship this past season, Knapp has etched his name on the Eagles' wall of fame as one of the all-time greats.

"Just to be in that category with all those guys. We got the Joey Guilers, the David Brunsons, the Tyler Parkers of Collins Hill. Ever since I was little I've always looked up to them. So just to be a part of that group is amazing," said Knapp, the Daily Post's Wrestler of the Year.

Knapp joins Guiler, Brunson and Parker as the only Collins Hill wrestlers ever to win three or more state championships. Since the Georgia High School Association expanded to five classifications in 2001, he is one of only eight wrestlers to have won three or more titles.

"I think he's as good as anybody to come out of Georgia," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "He lost 11 times his whole career and with our schedule that's saying something. I'm not going to say he's the best ever, but he's right up there in Georgia history and as good as any of them."

In addition to three individual state titles, Knapp helped lead Collins Hill to back-to-back dual and traditional state championships. On the national level, the Eagles were one of the top teams at the Midwest Classic and The Clash, earning the Eagles a season-ending No. 20 national ranking.

"It's really just a culmination of everything," Knapp said of his third title. "It was the perfect way for me to go out. I got to go out winning it with the team, the dual and the traditionals, and then a bunch of my friends on the podium with me. I couldn't have asked for anything better."

On Ramos' desk is a second-place trophy that sits as a reminder of the only blemish on Knapp's record this season.

"He can keep it," Knapp said.

Knapp lost in the finals of the Midwest Classic 8-4 to Stephen Swan. It's one of two losses Knapp has had the last two seasons.

"I just wasn't ready for that match," Knapp said. "I went out too cocky in the finals and thought I was going to run right through him."

After the match, Knapp found out Swan was a nationally-ranked wrestler headed to Oklahoma State.

That softened the blow a little bit, but changed his season.

"I think after that loss was when I started perfecting my wrestling," Knapp said. "That's when my technique became more solid."

Two weeks later at The Clash, one of the toughest dual tournaments in the country, Knapp recorded five pins and one technical fall to earn Most Outstanding Wrestler.

The rest of the season he won 18 of his 26 matches by pin and finished the season 51-1. His win total includes victories over Class AA state champions Jay Fowler from Jefferson and Anthony Fretwell from Henry County. Fretwell holds the national record for pins in a season and the state record for wins.

"He definitely dominated this season," Ramos said. "From the beginning of the season to the end there wasn't a more dominating wrestler in Georgia."

What makes Knapp's late-season run even more impressive is he did it wrestling up a weight class.

A month before the state meet, he bumped from 152 pounds to 160, giving his friend and teammate Gary Tiller a better shot to win state at 152.

Knapp gave up nearly 10 pounds at the state meet, but won his third state title with a 12-4 major decision over Peachtree Ridge's Alan Gigolaev. Tiller also won state at 152.

"Probably in the last few years Taylor is one of the three best kids I've seen," Peachtree Ridge coach Danny Sinnot said. "He's a very smart wrestler, very technical and has great mat awareness. He's not brutally strong, but he's extremely technical."

Knapp finished his career with a 197-11 record. The wins total is the most ever by a Collins Hill wrestler, breaking Parker's record of 196. However, that record could go down next year by Joel Smith or T.J. Mitchell. Knapp also has the school's pin record with 107.

The Virginia Tech-bound senior finished third as a freshman at state, has three Area 7-AAAAA titles and a Gwinnett County title on his resume.

But it's his last match, the one that secured him a third state title, that makes Knapp one of the best to ever step on the mat in a Collins Hill singlet.

"It really hit me after that last match. Looking back on everything it goes by fast," Knapp said. "I'm glad it's not my last match. I'm lucky enough to wrestle next year. I feel like I haven't even come close to my potential."

SideBar: All County Wrestling

· Wrestler of the Year: Taylor Knapp, Collins Hill, Sr.

Won third Class AAAAA state championship at 160 pounds and finished season with 51-1 record

· Coach of the Year: Cliff Ramos, Collins Hill

Led Eagles to back-to-back dual and traditional Class AAAAA state championships and 34-3 dual record

FIRST TEAM

· 103: Bazell Partridge, Collins Hill, Soph.

AAAAA state champ with 53-4 record

· 112: Nick Isburgh, Grayson, Jr.

Second at county, first at Area 8, third at state, 54-10 record

· 119: T.J. Mitchell, Collins Hill, Jr.

AAAAA state champ with 53-3 record

· 125: John Allgood, Collins Hill, Sr.

Area 7 champ, third at state with 47-8 record

· 130: Joe Epps, Brookwood, Sr.

County and Area 8 champ, fifth at state, 61-6 record

· 135: Billy Anderton, Buford, Sr.

County champ, second at area, third at state, 45-5 record

· 140: Joel Smith, Collins Hill, Jr.

AAAAA state champ with 54-1 record

· 145: Nick Voss, Buford, Sr.

AA state champ with 48-3 record

· 152: Gary Tiller, Collins Hill, Sr.

AAAAA state champ with 33-2 record

· 160: Colin Genthert, Wesleyan, Sr.

Class A state champ with 50-5 record

· 171: Rasheed Manson, South, Sr.

Third at county, second at Area 8, fourth at state, 48-10 record

· 189: Sam Kuntz, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.

County, Area 7 and AAAAA state champion with 46-2 record

· 215: C.J. Collins, Collins Hill, Jr.

Area 7 champ, second at state, 50-7 record

· 285: Jacob Aiken-Phillips, Central, Soph.

Third at county, first at Area 8, fourth at state, 56-4 record

SECOND TEAM

· 103: Brandon Bullock, Dacula, Soph.

Third at county, Area 8 champ, sixth at state, 49-7 record

· 112: Caleb Sawchuk, Collins Hill, Sr.

Area 7 champ, fourth at state, 34-9 record

· 119: Noah Hunt, Dacula, Sr.

County and Area 8 champ, second at state, 50-3 record

· 125: Devante Brown, Central, Jr.

County champ with 29-2 record

· 130: Josh Harrison, Mill Creek, Sr.

Third at county, second at Area 7, sixth at state, 44-12 record

· 135: Alex Hillis, Parkview, Sr.

Second at county, Area 8 champ, sixth at state, county record 67 wins

· 140: Zach George, Grayson, Jr.

County champ, Area 8 champ, fifth at state, 53-7 record

· 145: Sam Hoppenbrouwer, Collins Hill, Sr.

Area 7 champ, fourth at state with 35-16 record

· 152: Scottie Forrester, Buford, Sr.

County and area champ, sixth at state, 46-7 record

· 160: Alan Gigolaev, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.

County champ, second at Area 7 and state, 47-11 record

· 171: Michael Douglas, Wesleyan, Sr.

Class A state champ with 52-7 record

· 189: Paul Ardilla, Grayson, Sr.

Second at county, first at Area 8, third at state, 60-3 record

· 215: Matt Johnson, Parkview, Jr.

County and Area 8 champ, fifth at state, 55-3 record

· 285: Matt Elakatt, Parkview, Sr.

Second at Area 8, fifth at state with 54-14 record