Joyner and Saye win state and Raider wrestling team finishes as state runner-up

Published 2:51 pm Saturday, February 5, 2022

AMERICUS- Southland Academy (SAR) senior wrestlers Cayce Joyner and John Saye closed out their stellar wrestling careers by claiming individual state titles in the 182-lb. and 285-lb. weight classes respectively and they helped the SAR wrestling team earn its 10th state runner-up finish in school history at the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) State Wrestling Tournament held at the GSW Storm Dome Thursday and Friday, February 3-4.

The Raiders finished as the state runners-up with 190 points and Westfield won the GISA State Championship with 235 points. SAR finished 72 points in front of Trinity Christian Academy of Dublin, GA, who finished in third place with a total of 118 points.

“Overall, they did a good job and I’m really pleased with the effort,” SAR Head Coach Mike Smith said. “We had a few matches that didn’t go our way, but that’s wrestling. Overall, we worked hard and had a great time.”

Southland Academy senior Cayce Joyner is seen here at the top of the podium holding his state championship certificate and his first place medal after winning the individual state championship in the 182-lb. weight class. To the left of him is state runner up Brady Greer (Westfield), fourth place finisher Alex Green (Valwood) and sixth place finisher Christian KenKnight (Piedmont Academy). To the right of Joyner is third place finisher Daniel Tarant (Mill Springs Academy) and fifth place finisher Josh Mager (Bulloch Academy).
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Joyner was able to wrestle his way through the tournament and reached the finals of the 182-lb. weight class, where he would face Brady Greer of Westfield for the individual state title. In that title match, Joyner was able to pin Greer to take home the state championship. “When he (Greer) locked his arms, I got a free move. You can’t do that,” Joyner said. “So then I just rolled him over and he just landed right where I needed him to and I pinned him.” According to Joyner, in the third period of the match, Greer “locked his arms”, which is something that by rule, a wrestler is not allowed to do when he is on top of his opponent. As a result, Joyner was awarded a “free move”, which allowed him to roll Greer over and pin him for the win.

Southland Academy senior wrestler Cayce Joyner (black jersey with yellow lettering) pins Brady Greer of Westfield to win the individual state title in the 182-lb. weight class.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In the 285-lb. weight class, SAR senior John Saye wrestled his way to the state title match, where he would be facing Cade Beecher of Pinewood Christian Academy. Saye was also tied with fellow SAR wrestler Tanner Humphrey for the school record for most pins in a season (28). However, on this day, Saye ended up setting a new school record when he pinned Beecher to win the state championship. “It was hard work throughout the whole season,” Saye said. “I’ve wrestled that guy (Beecher) before. I just knew coming into the match what I had to do.” Saye finishes his senior year as a region champion and a state champion with an overall record of 33-2 and is SAR’s new school record holder for most pins in a season (29).

Southland Academy senior wrestler John Saye (black) pins Cade Beecher of Pinewood Christian Academy to win the individual state title in the 285-lb. weight class. In so doing, Saye finishes his high school wrestling career as the new record holder for Southland Academy for number of pins in a season (29).
Photo by Ken Gustafson

One other Raider made it to the state finals. Junior Tanner Humphrey wrestled his way through the tournament and got to the state championship match of the 132-lb. weight class, where he would face a familiar foe, Valwood’s John Del Vecchio, for the state title. At that time, Humphrey was tied with his fellow SAR teammate, John Saye, for most pins in a season (28). It was a highly competitive match that went into overtime tied at 4-4, but in the extra period, Del Vecchio was able to score two points to win the match and the state championship. Despite losing in the state finals, Humphrey was able to take it in stride. “I worked hard and had a good season. I made it all the way, but it wasn’t God’s will for me to win,” Humphrey said. Humphrey finishes the season as the state runner-up in the 132-lb. weight class and trails John Saye for the school record in number of pins in a season (29) with one more season to go.

Southland Academy junior wrestler Tanner Humphrey (grey jersey) is on top of John Del Vecchio of Valwood during their state championship match in the 132-lb. weight class. However, Del Vecchio ened up winning the match 6-4 in overtime to become the state champion and Humphrey had to settle for state runner up.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In addition to the successes of Joyner, Saye and Humphrey, several other Raiders finished in the top six in their respective weight classes. In the 113-lb. weight class, eighth grader Garrett Love finished in fourth place and Kiney Kinnebrew, who is also an eighth grader, finished in sixth place in the 120-lb. weight class.

Freshman Ethan Beck finished in third place in the 126-lb. weight class and his SAR teammate, junior Keaton Griffin, took home third place in the 138-lb. weight class.

Senior Landon Griffin finished his high school career by earning third place in the state in the 145-lb. weight class and sophomore Trey Sellers finished in fifth place in the 152-lb. weight division. SAR junior James Wall fought his way to a fifth place finish in the 160-lb. weight class and junior Will Rhodes also finished in fifth place in the 170-lb. weight class.

Southland Academy junior wrestler Colby Greene (grey jersey) is seen here competing. Greene finished in third place in the 220-lb. weight class.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In the 220-lb. weight class, SAR junior Colby Greene very nearly fought his way into the state championship match of that division, but was beaten by Brady Greer of Westfield in the semifinals. However, Greene rebounded and won third place by defeating Bradyn Jenkins of John Milledge Academy.

Southland Academy eighth grader Garrett Love (grey jersey) is seen here wrestling against Jacob Moore of Crisp Academy. Love finished in fourth place in the 113–lb. weight class.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

With only four seniors graduating this year, the Raiders will have more wrestlers coming back for the 2022-23 season and will try once again to win the GISA team state championship.