JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — For Mount Pisgah’s senior wrestlers, capturing the 2021 GHSA dual wrestling state title Jan. 30 was the realization of a goal set five years ago.
Head coach Josh Merry said the group set out to earn a state championship as it entered the varsity program, and after years of striving, they made it happen.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Merry said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior class. They did it, and it’s a burden off their back.”
Mount Pisgah’s Class of 2021 is rich with talent. David Bertrand already has two individual state titles and is one of the top-ranked wrestlers in his class nationwide. His twin sister Catherine-Grace, ranked as one of the top-15 girls wrestlers in the nation, placed in the top-4 in the 2020 traditional state meet.
Josh Noble, Jake Piccirilli and Brad Spence have also been standouts for the class. Noble and Spence each medaled at last year’s traditional state meet, while Piccirilli went 7-1 and won a National Duals title last July.
But in state team competition, the Patriot seniors came up just short over the years, placing fourth overall in Class A in 2020 and 2019.
The group took advantage of their final shot, though, and took home the 2021 team title. Each senior competing in the state meet — Catherine-Grace and David Bertrand, Piccirilli, Noble, Spence and Happy Chane —went 3-0 in the tournament in their respective weight classes.
The title was not won on senior success alone. Freshman Marley Washington and sophomore Tyler Nelson went 3-0, and sophomore Brady Nardella was 2-1.
“It was a total team effort,” Merry said. “The leaders on this team, especially the seniors, led this [program] to a state championship.”
The title was made all the sweeter given the programs the Patriots downed during the meet.
After dispatching Landmark Christian 72-6 in the first round, Mount Pisgah’s run to the title had to go through Social Circle and Commerce, two of the top programs in the state. Social Circle entered the tournament having won five of the last six Class 2A state team titles, while Commerce took the team championship six of the last seven years in Class A.
The Patriots took down Social Circle 45-18 in the second round ahead of their 48-27 victory over Commerce in the championship match.
“They are highly recognized programs with championship pedigree,” Merry said. “To go through both of those programs to win the state title meant the world. It showed it was not a fluke, and we deserved to win. You have to beat the best to win, and that’s what we did.”
For many in the program, the state title hunt is not over this year with the individual state meet slated for next week.
“We are not going to be satisfied until we win traditional,” Merry said. “Our mission, our goal, from when we got disappointed at duals last year was to win state duals and individuals. Unless that’s accomplished, it won’t be the success we aimed for.”
For Merry, it will be another meet during which he will be glued to his phone for updates, or he will be streaming matches online.
Merry is a member of the National Guard and was deployed overseas in November. When the team posed for a photo after winning the title, they included a cardboard cutout of Merry.
Though he won’t be there to cheer or coach his team in person, Merry said his assistant coaches have been with him for a decade, and his team captains know what is expected of the program and how to lead their teammates.
The individual state championship runs Feb. 9-13.