Pope coach Jim Haskin hugs wrestler Max Druhot following his 2018 state championship win at the Macon Coliseum. Haskin, who has been at Pope since 1995 and won seven team state titles, will be stepping down from his post after the season.

Jim Haskin, who has won seven state championships in 26 years as Pope’s wrestling coach, is looking to add two more titles to his resume before he hangs up his whistle at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Haskin, who arrived at Pope in 1995 after previously working at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County, has created a long-lasting dynasty with three dual state championships and four traditional titles. He has also played a key role in changing the culture of wrestling in Cobb County.

Through his long tenure at Pope, Haskin’s philosophy of grinding through rough times and being consistent has helped hundreds of wrestlers in the program reach their untapped potential.

Pope had another one of its successful seasons last year, finishing with a 19-3 dual record, and some of those wrestlers return with an eye on helping Haskin come out on top.

“We are looking pretty solid,” he said. “We have a lot of above-average wrestlers in each weight class. It is very promising when you have that. We got a good, solid lineup all the way through.”

Essential to the strength of Pope’s roster squad is its four returning wrestlers who placed at state last year — Joey Robinson (160 pounds), Aiden Karpinski (138), Carson Chalk (126) and Cherihk Koita (285). Haskin said the wrestlers’ experience will help galvanize the team as they act as role models for the young wrestlers to emulate.

The system being executed at Pope is based on the principle of hard work implemented on and off the mat. Haskin said having a system and technical approach in place has allowed his wrestlers a foundation to build upon, no matter the weight class.

“My expectation for this season is for the guys to perform in practice,” Haskin said. “The reason practice is important is because what you do there is what you do on the mat. If you go into practice and do not what you’re supposed to do and not learn what you need, it will hinder your progress as a wrestler.”

One of Pope’s biggest rivals remains Region 6AAAAAA foe Lassiter, which won the Cobb County championship and finished runner-up in the Class AAAAAA traditional meet last season. The Trojans have many of their key wrestlers who placed in state last season returning, including Ananth Manibushan (132) and Jacobee Connell (152), as well as David Panone (145), a two-time state champion.

“We had a really good season last year with the county championship and state runner-up,” Lasiter coach Matt Brickley. “We did graduate some really good wrestlers who are in college this year. Over the summer, our focus was just to build on what we have. I hate the term rebuilding, so more like reloading. We’ve got a lot of experience coming back, and then we also have some experienced freshmen coming in as well.”

McEachern brings back 10 returning state-qualifiers and seven experienced seniors who are ready to continue their ascent.

The Indians will look to go even further this season with Shamaad Price (126), Shamani Price (132), Rickey Motley ( 138), Devonte Morgan, (145), Ty Cox (152), Kerry Aboko (160), Kristian Coffey (170), Steron Parke (182), Ty’Jon Cash (195) and Ovie Dubre (285) all returning.

After a 51-30 win over North Cobb in its first dual match of the season, Harrison is on track to continue its dominance in Region 3AAAAAAA, though coach Jeffery Croker said many of the wrestlers felt like they fell short of their potential last year.

Harrison has a deep roster of experienced wrestlers who will be the key to its success in region and state, including Emiliano Magana (106), Tyler Gallegos (126), Wyatt Sligh (113), Landon Jones (160) and Bryce Gibbs (182). After coming up short last season the Hoyas are bringing a new drive and motivation to the mat and looking to put their offseason training to work this season.

Walker, which finished last season with an 8-2 dual record, will look to take its growth from last season in Area 5A and build upon it with returning wrestlers Miguel Valentin (126/132), Dominic Parlotto (132), Austin Westbrook (132/138), Zack Herbst (145), Harry An (160), Jackson Kraal (170) and Cooper Cranfill (160/170).

Whitefield Academy last season advanced to sectionals for the first time in program history and will be led by experienced wrestlers, including seniors Grant Young (170), Collin Schuster (182), Juanes Henao (138) and Jake Moorer (195).


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