Prep Wrestling: Northgate's Askey in pursuit of history
By DOUG GORMAN
Northgate senior Tyler Askey has put together a streak that would probably have made Alexander Karelin applaud.
Much like the dominating Russian Greco-Roman wrestler’s streak over 13 years, Askey has put together an undefeated run of his own over his first three-plus varsity seasons on the wrestling mat in Georgia. It includes over 180 wins with no losses and three state titles to be exact.
Starting with today’s Area 4-AAAAA traditional tournament at Ola, Askey can take his first step towards a fourth state title while competing at 170 pounds for the second straight season. Askey’s first two state titles came at 140 and 152 pounds.
Only two varsity wrestlers have ever completed their careers for a state high school without suffering at least one defeat.
For Askey, it should be a comfortable ride into next week’s Class AAAAA sectionals at Allatoona High School. From there, it could be on to the Macon Coliseum for a chance at clinching a fourth state title.
As good as Askey has been over his four-year high school career, Northgate longtime head coach Adrian Anderson — who will make this season his last following 300-plus victories — says the best is yet to come for his star senior, who will be headed to wrestle at the University of Virginia next year.
“He’s still getting better,” Anderson said. “I think he has a chance to be the best wrestler to ever come out of Georgia.”
Askey knows there’s a bullseye on his back every time he takes the mat, but he still approaches each match with a calm business-like approach.
"It’s no different than any other tournament,” Askey said about the postseason. “I try not to think about it. If you think about it too much you will really put pressure on yourself. You just treat it like another meet. There’s just a little more at stake.”
Unlike some wrestlers who wait to take up the sport in middle or high school, Askey already had an impressive background in the sport at both the national and state levels in youth wrestling.
The three-time, undefeated state champion can trace his wrestling roots back to the third grade when he began the sport with club and junior programs.
Askey wasn’t even thinking about state titles and putting up huge numbers.
“Back then I just wanted to wrestle,” he said. “Once I got into high school, and I grew, I thought it might be possible.”
Anderson knows Askey has natural ability, but he also realizes his 170-pounder isn’t afraid of working hard and putting in plenty of practice time.
“It’s all about work ethic. We shut down practice 15 minutes ago, and he is still out there working hard,” Anderson said after practice on Thursday.
Those around Askey knew as far back as the eighth grade before officially joining the program, he was going to rewrite the wrestling record book at Northgate.
“He could beat some of my varsity wrestlers,” Anderson said. “That’s when we knew he was going to be good.”
Anderson’s son, Aric, who was a senior during Askey’s first year with the program, remembers how impressive Askey was at the beginning.
“We knew he was going to be special when he came in,” said Aric, who has been helping his father at practices this year.
Askey never lets the pressure get to him even though he knows every opponent who steps on the mat would love to be the first to take him down.
“You just have to go out there and wrestle one minute at a time,” Askey said. “You can’t overlook anybody.”
Once he steps on the mat, Askey is like a well-oiled machine, coming at his opponents with precise moves that simply wear down opponents.
Most points Askey yields to opponents are intentional, often giving up an escape so he could set up his next move.
Through all the success, Askey has learned an important lesson that he uses before approaching each match.
“You have to stay mentally focused,” he said. “You can’t take anybody for granted.”
Askey began his state title run with championships in the 140 as a freshman and 152-pound division his sophomore year before collecting the 170-pound title a year ago.
Last year’s state championship match came down to an anticipated contest between Askey and region rival Luke Runyan from Starr’s Mill.
Askey had defeated Runyan in the region finals two weeks earlier, and made short work of the Starr’s Mill wrestler in the rematch.
After quickly putting Runyan on his back, Askey finished off the match in a pin in just 67 seconds into the first round.
Those looking forward to a rematch in the finals this time, might be disappointed. Runyan has decided to move up two weight classes this year and enters the wrestling postseason as one of the favorites to win the 195-pound division.
Askey can’t wait to make the leap to college — where the level of competition should increase dramatically.
“I am looking forward to seeing what I can do once I get to college,” Askey said. “It will be good to wrestle against other guys who were state champions when they were in high school.”
Coach Anderson predicts Askey can be just as successful at the Division-1 level in college.
“He can be an All-American,” Anderson said matter of factly, before adding, “he can be a multi All-American.”