Lakeside High School senior Justin Otis won the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA wrestling championship in the 160-pound division last weekend in Rome, Ga., and in the process became the first Panther to claim a state wrestling title.
"He did an excellent job. He really pounded them," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "The funny thing was, after he won, we were fired up about it, but he said, 'This is just another stepping stone."'
By virtue of his state title, Otis qualified for the Senior Nationals, which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio in late March. The event features the top two wrestlers from high school championships in each state.
Further down the road, Otis would like to compete collegiately, and his state title might have secured a ticket to the next level.
"Saying you're a state champ is a big plus. That opened a lot of doors, but success in these national tournaments would help him out a bit more," Hill said.
Lakeside High School's champion wrestler Justin Otis says he would like to compete on the collegiate level.
Photo by Mike Howell
Saturday in Rome, it was Otis' opponents that needed help.
In the state semifinals, Otis beat Jeremiah Clapp of Woodland 21-6 in a technical fall, but the victory did have some drama.
"The guy caught Justin in a cradle, and that was the first time he was on his back all year," Hill said. "That was a little scary, but there was no way he was going to get pinned."
After prevailing in the semis, Otis clinched the championship with an 11-3 decision in the finals over Ringgold wrestler Barrett Blankenship. During his senior season, Otis had a 44-0 record against in-state competition.
Otis also won a South Carolina Class AAA high school wrestling title in the 145-pound division as a sophomore at Luggoff-Elgin High School. As a junior, in his first season with the Panthers, Otis notched a third-place finish at state.
"He's a three-time placer at state, and he's a two-time state champion," Hill said. "That's probably pretty rare, and it's definitely a great accomplishment."
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