WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: Gavin Cagle, CAK
BY MIKE BLACKERBY
Gavin Cagle leaves no stone unturned in his dogged pursuit of excellence on the mat.
In fact, those 24 hours in a day aren’t quite enough for the Christian Academy of Knoxville sophomore, the 2019 5Star Preps Wrestler of the Year.
“I don’t have an offseason,” said Cagle, who is also a standout football player for the Warriors.
“I want to continually be grinding.”
Grinding translated to winning for Cagle, who compiled an eye-opening 57-1 record and wrangled a state championship last season for the Warriors.
He won Division II’s 160-pound weight class with a 6-4 verdict over highly touted Christian Brothers senior Elijah Hodge and earned All-American recognition for his body of work.
Cagle’s only loss last season was at the hands of a four-time state champion from Virginia.
Cagle, who wrestled for CAK as an eighth grader, has a career record of 141-14.
Chris Hawkins, who coached CAK this past season but recently resigned, said Cagle is just getting warmed up.
“He’s a gifted kid athletically who can do things on the mat most kids can’t do,” said Hawkins.
“He’s a gym rat. You’ll find him in the gym, even on days when school is out. He is going to maximize his natural abilities.”
Hawkins said Cagle’s mental approach is what sets him apart.
“(Cagle) is also a student of the game who watches a lot of film and puts in his due diligence,” said Hawkins.
“He’s one of those relentless kids when it comes to crafting his style. He studies and takes it personal. He’s a smart kid and a great student. Gavin has just got that mentality that he’s gonna win. He’s kind of the whole package.”
Cagle said he loves the individuality of wrestling.
“I was playing football in Georgia when I was 6 and the coach handed out flyers for wrestling. I took one and wrestling just bit me. The one thing I love about individual sports like wrestling is you get out of it what you put into it. It’s one of the toughest sports out there and I love the aggression.”
Cagle has some lofty goals heading into his final two seasons as a high school wrestler. He’s already looking ahead to college, as well.
“One of my big goals in high school is to be a national champion,” he said.
“I hope to get there … nothing can stop me, hopefully.”
Cagle said he has already gotten initial feelers from schools like Indiana, Pennsylvania and Drexel.
He admits it has always been a dream of his to wrestle in the tradition-rich Big 10.
“My mindset is, if I do what I’ve got to do,” said Cagle, “the offers are going to come.”
2019 All 5Star Preps Wresting Team
106 – Keyveon Roller (CAK)
113 – Colton Poole (Pigeon Forge)
120 – Josh Parton (Pigeon Forge)
126 – Kodiak Cannedy (Greeneville)
132 – Garrett Foreman (Pigeon Forge)
138 – C.J. Dyer (Pigeon Forge)
145 – Colby Dalton (Pigeon Forge)
152 – Andrew Baiamonte (Pigeon Forge)
160 – Gavin Cagle (CAK)
170 – Isaiah Brooks (Gibbs)
182 – Trent Knight (Greeneville)
195 – Michael Myers (Gibbs)
220 – Noah Evans (Alcoa)
285 – Garrison Albino (Gibbs)
COACH OF THE YEAR: Greg Foreman, Pigeon Forge
BY MIKE BLACKERBY
Wrestling at Pigeon Forge High School starts with team work.
It carried the Tigers to the TSSAA Class A-AA state dual championship and the state individual championship in Franklin this season.
Make it a clean sweep for Greg Foreman, the 5Star Preps Wrestling Coach of the Year in East Tennessee.
“We definitely had some good senior leadership,” explained Foreman.
“They put a lot of hard work into it all. The biggest thing all season was they put the team first. They had their eye on the prize, put the team first and did all the right things. There was good camaraderie on this team.”
Two weeks after winning their fourth state dual title since 2014, the Tigers had seven wrestlers finish fourth or better in the traditional state tournament.
Senior Andrew Baiamonte (152) and freshman Colby Dalton (145) won state championships for Pigeon Forge.
Josh Parton (120) garnered a second-place finish for the Tigers.
Colton Poole (113), Garrett Foreman (132) and C.J. Dyer (138) claimed thirds.
Jacob McCarter (195) was fourth.
Three of the seniors, Dyer, Poole and McCarter, are products of Pigeon Forge’s outstanding youth program.
“They started way back in the first or second grade,” said Foreman.
McCarter started wrestling in middle school.
Baiamonte was a late comer to wrestling. He didn’t take up the sport until high school, but still managed to win a state title.
“Three of our four seniors went through the youth camp coming up,” said Foreman, who came to Pigeon Forge in 2002 and laid the groundwork for the wrestling program.
He recognized early the importance of introducing kids to wrestling at a young age.
“One of the first things that long-term sustaining programs did was they all started youth programs,” said Foreman.
“Of all the teams in the area, probably only about five or six have really strong K-through-8 programs. We started our youth program in 2003. We currently have about 40 kids in K-through-4 and about 30 kids in (grades) 5-through-8.”
Youth development serves as a feeder program and generates interest in wrestling in the community, explained Foreman.
He was part coach and part salesman in the beginning.
“Probably the biggest challenge (initially) was the promotional aspect of it and introducing the community to the sport.”
Slowly, Foreman made wrestling cool in Pigeon Forge.
Now it’s a community happening for a home match.
“Sometimes we can fill up one side of the stands in the gym and about half the other,” he said.
Don’t expect Pigeon Forge wrestling to taper off any time soon, either.
The Tigers return 16 of 20 wrestlers in 2020.
“Our success is a combination of all of the pieces together,” said Foreman.