DeAngelo James has won four tournament championships and earned two "outstanding wrestler" awards.
Those medals and trophies are tucked away out of sight for now, though. Tyner hasn't had a state champion since Sean Smith in 1992, and the Rams' last two state medalists were Jason Raines and Scott Sussdorf in 1993. James hopes to bring the school's wrestling program into the 21st century.
The Tyner junior will be one of dozens of wrestlers trying to secure spots in next week's state tournament this weekend at the Region 4 wrestling tournament at East Hamilton. Wrestling starts at 6 tonight and at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Region 3 tournament -- which includes Bradley Central, Cleveland, Walker Valley, McMinn County and Rhea County -- is being conducted at Stone Memorial High in Crossville.
James was accorded a No. 2 seeding, meaning he's expected to reach the 112-pound championship final and take on top-seeded Jacob Stevens of Soddy-Daisy.
"That's the only kid in the region at that weight he hasn't wrestled," said Tyner coach Wayne Turner.
James has a 38-0 record this year with tournament titles at Gordon Lee, Central, Lookout Valley and St. Andrew's-Sewanee.
Stevens got the nod as the weight class's top seed because he is a returning state tournament medalist in the same weight class. It didn't seem to bother James' coach, who indicated that his wrestler was working to get back to the state tournament.
"Last year we caught the [Nick] Maxwell kid from Karns in the first round and got beat," Turner said. "I thought we'd have a chance to come back [in consolations], but then Maxwell got beat his next match."
Such a situation is something James and Turner won't have to worry about this year with the TSSAA instituting a double-elimination bracket.
"I'm glad they're going double-elimination," Turner said. "The kids work hard all season, and every tournament they go to is double-elimination. Anybody can have a bad match. It's more fair for the kids."
That first-round loss without a chance at further competition seemed just to whet James' appetite.
"That was a real eye-opener for him," Turner said. "From that point he began planning to go back, and in all my years in football and wrestling I have never had a kid with as much self-motivation and drive. He disciplined himself. When we were practicing football, he'd run two or three miles on the track and then go in and lift. He has the kind of drive you can't instill."
Said East Hamilton coach Ryan Cooper: "He's the real deal. He's strong and fast and a 112-pounder -- not a bad combo. To top it off he may be one of the best young men I have crossed paths with in a long time."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...