Wrestling Coach of the Year: Lassiter's Brickley overcomes adversity to helm banner season

John Bednarowski, Marietta Daily Journal, Ga.
·2 min read

Mar. 18—Lassiter wrestling coach Matt Brickley and his assistants had their hands full during the 2020-21 season.

"We had a lot of adversity to overcome," Brickley said. "We had to do the daily check-ins, daily temperature checks and a ton of cleaning."

That was just to get the wrestlers ready for practice.

During a time in which there were no guarantees whether a practice, a meet or the season would even happen due to the ongoing pandemic, Lassiter had one of the best runs in program history.

The Trojans won the Cobb County championship for the first time in 31 years. Twelve wrestlers qualified for the state tournament, eight placed and two — David Panone (29-0) and R.J. Weston (30-0) — completed the year as undefeated state champions. Lassiter as a team finished second in the traditional state meet in Macon.

For his efforts, Brickley was named Coach of the Year by the Cobb County Wrestling Association.

"It's great, but I had a great group of six assistant coaches, and the athletes, I wouldn't have been able to do it without them," he said, "but a lot of credit has to go to my wife, Kelly. I always bounced ideas off her, and she double-checked my work."

For Brickley, who has been the Trojans' coach since 2013, the season was one he had been building for, and he said he was proud of the way his team handled all the uncertainty.

"Our group had a great work ethic throughout the season," Brickley said. "We had the motto, 'Go out and wrestle and have fun,' because we never knew if or when the season would be shut down."

Brickley said the key to this season's success were bonus points. His wrestlers were not satisfied with just winning. They wanted pins, technical falls and major decisions.

The extra points added up, and he said he got key performances from many of, if not all, his wrestlers, but a few made bigger impacts than may have been expected.

Jacobee Connell (23-10), a sophomore who was a member of the junior varsity squad last season, wrestled at 145 pounds, became a county champion and finished fifth in the state. Senior Jack Dyess (26-4) had not qualified for state in his first three seasons, but he made it this year and finished fifth at 170 pounds.

Junior Anthony Fiorenza turned into a wrestler of all trades.

"We couldn't find a weight class for him," Brickley said. "He started at 160, then went to 170. He finally ended up wrestling at 195. He was 23 pounds under weight and still won a match at state."

Each wrestler did his or her part this season — May Pardo earned a spot on the girls all-state team at 132 pounds — and Brickley said the future is bright for the program.

"Our kids put Lassiter back on the map," he said.