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ATLANTIC CITY -- Anthony Knox has a definitive path laid out for his wrestling career, and if everything goes as planned he'll go down as one of the greatest wrestlers in New Jersey history.

Those are lofty aspirations, certainly, but the fact that they are realistic tells you all you need to know about the level at which Knox is operating. The St. John Vianney freshman was among the very best wrestlers in the country throughout his youth career and entered high school with immense expectations, both from within and from those who follow the sport.

So far, so good. By the time the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships came to a close Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall, it was one down, three to go for Knox.

With a 7-2 victory over Eastern Regional senior Jared Brunner, Knox completed a dominant run to the NJSIAA 113-pound state championship and started his high school career according to plan. He did not surrender an offensive point in the tournament, which included two wins by technical fall, a major decision over eventual third-place finisher Kaden Naame of St. Augustine, and a semifinal victory over returning state champion Daniel Jones of Delbarton.

03/05/2022 - NJSIAA State Finals
Richard E. O'Donnell
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The victory made Knox the second wrestler in St. John Vianney history to win a state title, joining two-time state champion Dean Peterson.

As referee Ed Tonnesen raised Knox's right arm in victory, he used his left hand to put out three fingers. One down...

"And now, three more to go," Knox said. "The job's not finished and there's no time to celebrate."

There's still a long way to go for Knox to join Mike Grey, Anthony Ashnault, Andrew Campolattano, and Nick Suriano in the pantheon of New Jersey's four-time state champions, but to get to four you have to start at one, and that meant beating Brunner in the 113-pound state final.

Knox wants to pile up points in every bout but Brunner was stingy early on and gave Knox no openings to attack. The SJV über frosh stayed patient and didn't force a bad shot, and with 13 seconds on the clock in the first period, he got to Brunner's legs and finished a takedown to go up 2-0.

"It was a little frustrating but I got the job done at the end of the day," Knox said. "Winners win, that's it, whether it's by 20 points or 5."

Knox was able to open up in the second period with a reversal to take a 4-0 lead and then, after Brunner escaped, a takedown to push his lead to 6-1. He then rode out Brunner for the entire third period - although both wrestlers received a point each for stalling calls against the other - and wrapped up a convincing 7-2 victory in the championship bout.

03/05/2022 - NJSIAA State Finals
Richard E. O'Donnell
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"Brunner is really strong," Knox said "I've wrestled him for two or three years and he knew what was coming a little bit. I just had to get to my stuff toward the end and then rode him a bunch."

Knox's business-like mentality served him well during his run to his first state championship. and that didn't change even after the title was secured. He has wrestled in major tournaments all over the country, so the competition at the state tournament didn't faze him. What was new to him was the atmosphere inside Boardwalk Hall, and he fed off of it.

"It was great, the people here are awesome," Knox said. "It's so much fun wrestling in this state and I wouldn't change it for the world. I want to come back next year and give them more to cheer for."

There won't be much of a break for Knox, who is currently ranked No. 5 in the nation (MatScouts). He was ranked No. 1 in the country to start the season before a loss in the Escape the Rock final. That defeat certainly irks him, but he knows it will be only a footnote if he keeps winning.

"Everything pays off in the moment but it's right back to work," Knox said. "I want to go win a world title this summer and then it's back here next year to win another."

 

 

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