Tackett hopes numbers, assistants can help spark Polk wrestling program

Polk County's Dillon Knighton came within one match of qualifying for the state 2A individual wrestling tournament in the 2016-17 season.

Ken Tackett is a man on a mission.

Polk County’s new wrestling coach wants to build the program’s numbers, to see a Wolverine step onto the mat in every weight class and no longer give away points every match due to forfeits.

Tackett also wants to see the program become competitive on a regular basis in the Western Highlands Conference, to challenge traditional state power Mitchell as well as an always-sound Avery program in the 1A half of the league.

To those ends, Tackett has enlisted some valuable help.

Former Polk County head wrestling coach Jamie Thompson is serving this season as Tackett’s assistant, with Hall of Fame coach Rex Wells, Polk County’s athletic director, also working with the program when possible. That combination has Tackett excited about a season that is just beginning to ramp up.

“The biggest thing for us is having Rex Wells helping,” Tackett said. “He has forgotten more than me and a lot of guys know about wrestling. And having Jamie Thompson helping out as well, we may have the best assistant coaches of any team ever.

“I’m excited. There’s a lot of room to grow and a good group of kids to do it with.”

After an early match at Rosman and a small group taking part in Saturday’s Falcon Frenzy, the Wolverines cranked up their schedule on Tuesday, taking part in a meet at Smoky Mountain with the Mustangs, Swain and Mountain Heritage. Polk County dropped a 66-18 decision to Smoky Mountain and a 60-18 loss to Swain.

Part of the reason for Tackett’s excitement about the season is an increase in numbers, with a core group of returnees being joined by enough newcomers to potentially give Polk County a full roster.

“We have an opportunity to fill every weight class,” Tackett said. “We’ve got one weight class open right now and have several positions with multiple wrestlers in the class.

“The program is growing, and being able to fill every class would be a step in the right direction.”

Returning wrestlers Dillon Knighton, Devin Panchyshyn, Tristan Watkins, Charlie McKaig, Mitchell Yoder, Trey Thompson, Preston Burnett, Evan Miller and Bryson Seay all saw extensive action last season. Knighton narrowly missed earning a berth in the state 2A tournament and Tackett expects the senior to make another state run this season.

Daniel Ruff and Hayden Shumate will also contribute at the upper weights, with Brady Hall, Steffan Walker and Kaden Jobe slotting into the middle weights. Brennan Worthington, who competed last season, is joined by Kaden Loyer and Chris Rickman in helping give Polk County depth at the lower weights.

“It’s a great group of kids. The teamwork and the unity has been great,” Tackett said. “They push each other and stick together and work hard.

“I believe we can have a good season, which will be a step in the right direction in growing the program.”