INDIAN TRAIL – Joel Kanagy has some big shoes to fill but the Sun Valley High wrestler is determined to match his older brother.
Three years ago, then Weddington High senior Ethan Kanagy brought home a state championship belt when he won the 220 division at the Class 3A Individual Wrestling Championships.
Now, Joel Kanagy is hoping to bring another state championship belt into the family household. Kanagy will look to take the first step Feb. 9 to 10 at the regional wrestling meet. Then, hopefully, it will be off to the Class 3A Individual Wrestling Championships on Feb. 15 to 17.
Kanagy started wrestling in the eighth grade at Weddington Middle School but redistricting landed him in the Sun Valley school boundaries as a freshman.
“I have big shoes to fill over here,” Joel Kanagy said. “I got into wrestling because of my brother. I went to a lot of his practices when I was little and I would roll around with some of the other brothers that were there. I’ve always been into it. It’s a little, friendly family competition.”
Kanagy is an impressive 41-1 on the year at 170 and is No. 2 in the state in one ranking of the state’s best wrestlers in his division. Kanagy’s only loss is to Michael Vernagallo of Cape Fear and Kanagy said he is focused on doing well at the regional meet.
“It’s been a good year so far,” Kanagy said. “I’m looking forward to getting him (Vernagallo) at state. At regionals, I will just stay
focused and get my moves. Top four at regional go to state.”
Sun Valley head wrestling coach Sean Greiner said Kanagy is on top of his game heading into postseason competition.
“Kanagy has had a fantastic year,” Greiner said. “He did a lot of work in the offseason, and obviously, that has shown. He has always had a desire to work hard, he is relentless and he gives it everything he has got. His brother was a state champ, and you always want to one-up your brother.”
If Kanagy advances, it will be his third trip to the state championships. An injury at the state meet a year ago derailed his hopes of earning a place on the podium. As a sophomore, Kanagy fell one win short of placing.
Kanagy said having wrestled on the big stage at the state tournament is a plus.
“The state tournament is really big and you have to keep your eyes down and stay focused,” Kanagy said. “All the people and all the lights will catch you if you are not focused. I feel like this is my year. I have been a couple of years and I know what it is all about.”
Greiner said Kanagy knows what it will take to challenge for a state title.
“A lot of guys in their first year at state, they are like a deer in the headlights,” Greiner said. “Joel knows what it takes.”
Kanagy said he hopes to continue his wrestling career in college.
“I’m waiting to see what opens up,” Kanagy said. “I’m hoping to go up north and wrestle somewhere.”
Kanagy isn’t the only Sun Valley wrestler gunning for a shot on the podium. Christian Harris (126), Hunter Brown (145) and Elijah Last (220) all will look to take the next step this weekend.
“Christian has been injured the last couple of years, but this year he has been real healthy,” Greiner said. “Christian is determined to make up for those two lost years. Hunter is really hungry this year after having a good experience at state last year. He did a lot of work in the offseason and he is waiting to step on top of that podium.
“Elijah placed sixth last year, and we are looking for a state title from him this year.”