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WRESTLER OF THE YEAR

Jalaal Malik, Jonesboro

Jonesboro senior Jalaal Malik compiled a 52-6 record and placed fifth at the Class AAAA meet in the 126-pound division. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Jonesboro senior Jalaal Malik compiled a 52-6 record and placed fifth at the Class AAAA meet in the 126-pound division. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

The Clayton News Daily All-County Wrestling Team

Blake Kennedy

School: Forest Park

Grade: Junior

Weight: 160

Highlights: Compiled a 45-11 record while taking first at the county meet. He also won area and placed fifth at the Class AAAAA West Sectionals. Was one of the team leaders.

Orlando Kinsey

School: Morrow

Grade: Senior

Weight: 195

Highlights: Compiled a 23-9 record and was county champion. He advanced to the state meet. Placed runner-up at the Tara Classic.

Jermaine Millens

School: Joneboro

Grade: Junior

Weight: 138

Highlights: Compiled a 49-9 record and won the county and area championship. Placed fifth overall at the Class AAAA meet.

Queryachi Taylor

School: Lovejoy

Grade: Sophomore

Weight: 182

Highlights: Finished with a 40-5 record in second season of varsity competition. Won county and was runner-up at the Area 2-AAAAAA meet. In two seasons, he has compiled an 81-2 record.

Anthony Vasta

School: Forest Park

Grade: Senior

Weight: 113

Highlights: Was the county and Area 4-AAAAA champion with 43-9 record. He also made school history by placing second at the Sectional, the highest of any wrestler in program history.

Question: What was the highlight for you this season?

Malik: “The biggest moment was getting fifth in the state. It was good to see that I improved from last season. I closed my career as a two-time state placer, which is a a good feeling. I set a goal to make my last match as a high school wrestler to where I was a winner. It felt good standing up there with the other winners and knowing that you accomplished your goal.”

Question: How did you improve this season?

Malik: “I did a lot more training to get ready for the season. I tried to go the extra mile to make sure that I would accomplish my goal. When I got home from work I would work out some more. I wanted to put in the extra work that I knew I needed to do to become a champion. I would run and go in our garage and work out to get ready for this season.”

Question: What was your biggest challenge this season?

Malik: “Usually it was hard in the past to make my weight. I wanted to make sure this season that I wouldn’t have a problem in making my weight. I was trying with everything I had to become a state champion. I didn’t reach that goal, but I was pleased to be a state placer. I knew coming into the season that I had some tough matches. I had to steadily focus on my goal. It was great going into my final state tournament, and I had the feeling that I belonged there with the other wrestlers.”

On Malik

Vitals: The senior finished fifth in the 126-pound division in the Class AAAA meet. This was the third straight season that he had qualified for the state tournament. He is receiving some interest from colleges, but has yet to get an offer. He was one of the highest place finishers in the county.

Why Malik: He compiled a 52-6 record and fifth-place finish overall at the state meet. This season’s resume includes a county and Area 4-AAAA champion. He also was the Sectional champion and entered the Class AAAA meet with the top ranking in the 126-pound division. He also placed second in the South Metro Tournament, one of the top regular season tournaments in the Southeast.

Last season: As a junior, He finished with a 60-10 record and placed sixth at the state meet. He was a county and area champion, in addition to placing third at the Sectional meet.

Others considered: Queryachi Taylor, Lovejoy; Anthony Vasta, Forest Park; Jermaine Millens, Jonesboro; Blake Kennedy, Forest Park.

Coach Gene Johnson

On Malik’s season: “He had an outstanding season, which started with a runner-up finish in the South Metro tournament. I knew if he could place there, he had a good shot at doing it at the state tournament. It is one of the top tournaments in the Southeast, so he gained a lot of confidence. I made it a point to push and get the most out of him this season.”

On Malik’s career: “I knew from Day 1 that he would be something special. He had a lot of natural ability. Jalaal usually learned things rather quickly. He has a lot of potential.”

A year ago: Calvin Coleman of Jonesboro was selected wrestler of the year last season after posting a 62-8 record in the 120-pound weight division. He placed third at the Class AAAA meet. He is now a freshman at Darton State College in Albany.