Buford’s Chip Ness has been selected as the Daily Post’s wrestler of the year. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
When Chip Ness was in eighth-grade, the Buford wrestling team finished 36th at the traditional state tournament.
For Ness, who was a highly decorated youth wrestler, it didn’t deter him from the school.
He saw it as an opportunity.
“The foundation was there,” Ness said. “We knew nothing starts off great. We built that long road from 35 places away.”
Ness, the Daily Post’s Wrestler of the Year, captured his fourth-straight state title this season and helped build Buford into a state championship program. The Wolves captured the Class AAA dual and traditional state crowns, the first in the program’s history.
“It’s unbelievable. My freshman year, I thought I had a chance to be a four-timer,” Ness said. “But being able to build the leadership and the character of the team, there’s not a better thing.”
Ness had a 31-0 record this season and became the 28th four-time state champion from Georgia. He’s the first from Gwinnett County since Collins Hill’s Tyler Parker in 2005. Collins Hill’s Sean Russell also won his fourth state title this season.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling. You’re almost overwhelmed and amazed,” Ness said. “You see how everything is worth it. All the things you’ve had to give up and have to work harder. Now you see it’s all worth it.”
Ness’ biggest sacrifice was a social life. When his friends would invite him to go hang out after school, he went to wrestling practice. When his friends wanted to get together on a weekend, Ness was at a wrestling tournament.
“I wanted to build championships and you have to focus on what you want to do,” Ness said.
All of those sacrifices paid off this season.
Ness won the prestigious Super 32 preseason national tournament. He became the third Georgian to ever win the title and that catapulted him up the national rankings to No. 1.
“Everything that leads to my high school national success comes down to this tournament,” Ness said. “I was able to win that and it sealed the deal of putting me at No. 1.”
But the win came at a price. Ness sprained his ankle and missed the first six weeks of the wrestling season. That didn’t stop him from still coming to practice and helping his teammates drill movements or going to out-of-state tournaments to cheer them on.
“He did a real good job this year as far as leading the team,” Buford head coach Rob Carlyle said. “I think it was fun for him this year because he was going for his fourth state title and and we had a chance to win it as a team. His leadership was huge for us winning it.”
Buford placed fourth at the state tournament last season and with all of its placers returning, the Wolves were a contender for the state title.
The Wolves won the dual state championship in January and then followed by winning the traditional title in their home gym. The 195-pounder Ness was one of six state champions for the team.
“When he won his last state title, that was really fun to watch,” Carlyle said. “Not really realizing it would be the last time we would see him wrestle in high school.”
Ness finishes with an impressive high school resume. In addition to his four state titles, he posted a 168-1 record with 114 pins. His only loss came to Pope’s Brooks Climmons, a nationally ranked wrestler, at the Kyle Maynard Duals last season.
“I think it’s the ugliest number in history,” Ness said of his one loss. “But it helped me so much. It made it so much easier. I hated that loss, but it took pressure off. I got better and saw some points of weakness I had. It made wrestling fun. I wasn’t as nervous. It helped me not be afraid of tough competition.”
Ness also won the PowerAde Invitational this season in Pennsylvania, becoming the first-ever champion from Georgia.
He was selected to the 40th annual Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, becoming the sixth Georgian to receive the honor. He will also wrestle for Team Georgia’s Dream Team against the USA.
Now Ness, who maintains a 3.3 GPA, will take his talents to the University of North Carolina where he has big goals like being an All-American and a national champion.
“Honestly, I think he can be a four-time All-American. He’s on that level,” Carlyle said. “I’ve seen Sean Hage wrestle back in the day and he was a six-time national champ at Fargo and I would say Chip is right up there with him. Maybe even better.”