By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Eleven months ago, Cherokee’s Anthony Toineeta defeated Princeton’s Michael Daughtry to claim the 1A Wrestling State Championship in the 145lb. division. This year, Toineeta, now a senior and wrestling in the 160lb division, is working hard for another ring.
“It’s been a pretty easy transition,” he said of moving up several divisions. “I feel like I grew into 160 pretty well. I’m a lot bigger and a lot stronger, and my wrestling has improved a lot.”
Toineeta is currently ranked number one in the state in the 160lb. division by Retro Rankings, and he said he owes a lot of this success to constant practice. “I’ve been doing a lot more wrestling. I wrestle every day of the week, even on Sundays…doing a lot more drilling. It’s been pretty much the same strategy, just a lot more.”
Joining Toineeta in the state rankings are teammates Lucas Woodard (#2 at 170lb.) and Seth Sneed (#8 at 132lb.). The Braves travel to Rosman on Saturday, Jan. 28 for the Smoky Mountain Conference Championship. A few weeks later, on Feb. 10-11 comes the 1A West Regional being hosted by Allegheny this year.
Tavi Rivera, Cherokee’s head wrestling coach and two-time state runner-up in the 160lb. division, is happy with where his team is at this season. “We’ve really improved since last year. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of guys come back. We have four seniors who are leaving us this season, and I wish I had another three years with those guys.”
The second-year coach went on to say, “God’s really blessed us in these past two years especially in my first year having a state champion. I just have to thank God for everything.”
He said his team is coming along in their technical wrestling skills. “We’ve been wrestling a lot better on our feet. We still have some improvement to do on top and bottom, but overall, all of the guys are starting to buy in and starting to figure out their own styes of wrestling.”
Coach Rivera said he’s hoping to take at least three, possibly four, wrestlers to the state tournament scheduled for Feb. 16-18. “Hopefully, we can get them in the state tournament and see how far we go. We have tried to change the program up, here at Cherokee, and get it back to its roots. We’ve always been known to be rough wrestlers, skilled wrestlers, and always willing to work.”