Woodward Academy brought home the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) team dual wrestling state championship in Class AAAA with a dominant performance by going undefeated in all four of its matches Jan. 18 and 19. It was the program’s first team dual state title.
Junior Malachi Wiley was the leading force for the War Eagles as he earned pins in each of his individual matches in the 152- and 160-pound divisions. After defeating Madison County’s Austin Kearns in 29 seconds and Cartersville’s Jabril Williams in 1:57, Wiley took on West Laurens’ Caden Snell in the team semifinals and earned another fall, this time in 1:05 as the War Eagles won 39-25. Woodward faced Gilmer in the finals and Wiley’s dominance showed once again as he pinned Forrest Todd in 49 seconds and led the team to a 37-33 victory.
“I’m very proud of the team,” Wiley said. “Each individual guy knew what he had to do and get points for the team. Everyone did their job. I wanted to give the team the best opportunity to win whether it was at 152 or 160. I wanted to keep a level head and not force anything in the final match. I wrestled my match and was able to get a quick cradle and pin him.”
Wiley has also wrestled at 170 this season, bringing his different weight classes to three. He has managed to post an individual record of 35-4 with 30 falls and an undefeated mark at 152.
“Malachi is on his way to becoming another nationally recognized Woodward wrestler because he is such a hard worker who gets better every week and is a fierce competitor,” head coach Jeff Ragan said.
Said Wiley, “We have a strong team. Our mindset is program, team, (then) individual. We always wrestle as a team. Going into the state championship, we had a high level of energy because we knew that we worked hard all season in practice and at meets. It was all building up to the state tournament, and we were prepared knowing we were going to win after working harder than anybody else.”
The focus now shifts to the traditional state championships starting Feb. 13 in Macon. Wiley will wrestle at 152 in the competition.
“We’re hoping to have our guys win individual titles and place well at state,” he said. “Preparing for dual (meets) is more of a team aspect such as avoiding getting pinned or earning bonus points in the match. The traditional meet is more about the individual, so you’re preparing by working on top moves and getting out of the bottom position.”
The son of Malcolm Sr. and Deana Wiley has attended Woodward since kindergarten and began intramural wrestling in the fourth grade.
“I used to wrestle in the house with my older brother, Malcolm Jr., and our father said that if we were going to do that, we had to do it right,” Wiley said. “He put us in an intramural camp and we’ve enjoyed it ever since.”
Malcolm Jr. is a senior on the Woodward team and was also undefeated at the team dual state championships.
“He’s an accomplished wrestler and we drill every day,” Wiley said. “He gives me tips and information. We encourage each other every day as brothers. He a very big part of my wrestling success.”
Wiley has previously played football and run track for the War Eagles but has focused exclusively on wrestling since sophomore year. He lists wrestlers Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake and David Taylor as well as actor Will Smith and his father as sources of inspiration.
“I look at the wrestlers and how they overcame tough opponents and adversity,” Wiley said. “From a lifestyle perspective, I look to my father and Will Smith, who have become successful overcoming obstacles.”
Off the mat, Wiley holds a 3.84 grade point average and lists physics and chemistry as his favorite subjects. He is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Black Student Union at Woodward.