After all, the Westside senior has been wrestling for only three years, meaning he’s often going up against more experienced foes.
But in February, none of that mattered. Now he’s ahead of everyone else.
Rhodes became the first wrestler in Richmond County to win a state championship, as he won a Class AAA state title at 160 pounds with a 9-3 decision on Feb. 18.
“At first, I was doubting myself, and then I made it to the finals – it was a goal, to make it,” Rhodes said. “After that, I decided I couldn’t do no less than first. It was not an option.”
One year after finishing in fifth in the state at 152 pounds, Rhodes marched his way through the bracket. The decorated wrestler will leave the Patriots with his name at the top in the record books in multiple categories. He has gone172-34 in his career, and his 76 wins this season are a record, as are his 62 pins in a season.
Rhodes was one of six Patriots to notch 30 wins this season, with Westside coach Kevin Waters singling out Rhodes and Jaylen Rhoney as the team’s leaders. Rhoney came in sixth at 170 pounds at state.
Waters called Rhodes a “machine” in describing the wrestler’s tournament run, which included Rhodes pinning four competitors.
Such dominance was possible because of his growth, in part because of his father’s assistance.
Rhodes’ dad, Kevin Brown, filmed his matches. Afterward, they would go over what was done correctly and what needed work.
“He’d point out my weaknesses,” Rhodes said. “He’ll tell me on an eye-to-eye level, no sugarcoating anything, how I’d compare to other guys. He told me I was up there, but I didn’t believe him – I would slack.”
The biggest trouble spot was Rhodes’ movement, or rather how he wasn’t moving enough.
After a tough loss, Rhodes got help from both his coach and his father in realizing he shouldn’t stop moving.
Rhodes now tries to keep his feet in constant motion, allowing him to take off on either the right or left foot.
It’s all part of the work that has him compensating for less experience.
“I have a lot to make up for, but there’s a physical aspect,” Rhodes said. “No matter how far ahead they are, I can keep up with that. I run, work out, keep at it and make myself work harder than the next guy.”