Chris Murdock knows about losing.
Wrestling at a higher weight class, the Kennesaw Mountain athlete took on two-time Alabama state champion Ben Smith in the 132-pound final of the Crossbone Classic this season at East Paulding. Smith was in his third undefeated season at the time of the match, but Murdock, who was always looking for a challenge, didn’t mind testing himself against one of the best.
“(Kennesaw Mountain) coach (Roberto) Rivera suggested that I bump up from 126 to wrestle (Smith),” Murdock said. “The guy hadn’t lost in like two years, so he thought the match would be a good challenge for me, and it was. We wrestled a good match.”
Murdock fell 11-7 in the final for his only loss of the year, and though he knows something about losing, he also knows about winning — a lot.
The senior dominated his opponents all season to the tune of 53 victories — including 32 pins, 10 technical falls and seven major decisions. His other four wins were by decision, though none were closer than the five-point margin he had in the 126-pound final of the Class AAAAA state championship.
“That’s just hard work, determination and a strong work ethic,” Rivera said. “Murdock improved every year he’s been at Kennesaw Mountain. He always did the extra stuff wrestlers need to do to get better. He went and trained on his off-days, went to the academies and put all of that training to good use on the mats.”
All of that training ended Feb. 18, when Murdock defeated North Gwinnett’s Dalton Daniel 11-6 in the championship at 126 pounds. Murdock controlled the match from start to finish, and the score wasn’t as close as it really indicated.
For his impressive season, which culminated in his first state championship, Murdock is the 2011-12 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Wrestler of the Year. He becomes the third straight Kennesaw Mountain wrestler to earn the award, following Jonatan Rivera (2011) and Ryan Maus (2010).
“To be honored and compared in the same way as guys like Maus and Jonatan, who I looked up to, is a great accomplishment,” Murdock said. “It makes me fell really good to be mentioned with them.”
Like Maus, Murdock claimed his first and only state championship as a senior, while Jonatan Rivera won once as a sophomore and another as a senior.
“I’m really happy for him,” said Roberto Rivera, the coach and Jonatan’s father. “We talked about it last year after my son went through it. We wanted to keep the tradition in-house. I knew (Murdock) had a shot and an opportunity to secure it. It was one of his goals going into the season, and I’m proud of him.”
En route to his state championship, Murdock collected a first-round major decision and earned back-to-back pins before meeting Daniel in the final. He recorded two pins in the Class AAAAA sectional, then beat Camden County’s Blake Winn 6-1 in the semis before logging a major decision over Cherokee’s Andrew Torrence 10-2 in the final. He also had two pins in the Region 4AAAAA traditional tournament.
After the final whistle sounded on Murdock’s senior season, he had won six individual championships on the year, while maintaining a 3.8 grade-point average in the math and science magnet program at Kennesaw Mountain.
A moment in time four years in the making, Murdock wasn’t quite sure how to handle himself after winning a state championship.
“In the moment when that final whistle blew and I won, I was like, ‘Finally!’” Murdock said. “I felt like it was a long time coming. It was a relief and a great feeling, but I didn’t know what to do. There were a lot of emotions, and I’m glad I was able to finish on top.”