Woodward Academy’s winter athletic teams turned in an impressive season this year, vaulting Woodward Academy into the top 5 in the Georgia Athletic Director’s Associations Director Cups standings for the top athletic program.
While all the War Eagle athletic teams did an outstanding job, none may have been more impressive than Woodward Academy’s Wrestling team. In early January, the War Eagles stormed through the AAAA State Dual Championships. The War Eagles defeated a strong West Laurens team in the semifinals 39-35 before facing traditional power Gilmer County in the finals. With the War Eagles trailing early in the match, Woodward strung together several key victories to win the title 37-33. Following up on their dual finish, the War Eagles qualified 10 out of 14 wrestlers for the AAAA Traditional State Championships. Once again, the War Eagles dominated on the big stage with Woodward capturing FIVE individual state championships completing the team sweep winning the AAAA Team Traditional State Championship. Nick Masters (126), Michael Kilic (132), Matthew Singleton (138), McCoy Pace (145) and Malcolm Wiley (195) all won individual state titles with Malachi Wiley (152) finishing as state runner-up. Woodward’s sweep of the wrestling titles is the first ever for the Academy and the War Eagles five individual champions were the most of any school in all state classifications for 2019.
Woodward Academy’s Boys Basketball team also turned in an impressive season. The War Eagles competed in several invite only events before entering region tournament play. Woodward defeated Hampton High School in the first round before facing a top 10 ranked Salem team in the semifinals where the War Eagles held on for a 68-66 win. In the region championship, the War Eagles faced then #4 ranked Henry County High School. Twenty-five points from Jacorrei Turner and 19 rebounds from Walker Kessler helped earn Woodward back-to-back Region 4-AAAA Championships defeating Henry County 67-51. The boys squad entered the AAAA State Tournament as the #1 seed from Region 4-AAAA. Battling through a pair of close games in the first two rounds, the War Eagles advanced to the AAAA Elite Eight to face Denmark High School. Woodward got 21 points from Michael Whitmore and a triple-double from Walker Kessler to defeat the Greyhounds and send Woodward Academy to their first GHSA Final Four since 1997. Woodward lost their final four match-up against the eventual state champion, Carver-Columbus, in a game that was tied at the end of each quarter and remained tied until two minutes remaining in the game.
While not advancing as far as the boys squad, the Woodward Academy Girls Basketball team once again qualified for the AAAA State Tournament with a third place finish in the Region 4-AAAA tournament. The Lady War Eagles roster was dominated by underclassmen this season so the girls squad will look to advance even further in 2020.
Turning in an outstanding season of their own was the Woodward Academy Boys Swimming and Diving squad. The War Eagles finished with a 7-0 dual meet record and qualified 10 swimmers and 1 diver for the State Championships where, for the 2nd year in the row, the boys finished as AAAA/AAAAA State Runners-Up. In addition to the team’s outstanding overall finish, the boys broke five school records at the state championships. The 200 Medley Relay team of Harrison Barnard, Jelani Durley, Jacob Willis, and Emanuel Abdul- Salaam finished 2nd with a new school record of 1:36.22. The 200 Free Relay team of Emanuel Abdul-Salaam, Jacob Willis, Trevor Muirhead, and Henry Nichols finished 2nd with a new school record of 1:26.88. The 400 Free Relay team of Harrison Barnard, Jacob Willis, Henry Nichols and Emanuel Abdul-Salaam finished 2nd with a new school record of 3:11.17 and rounding out the record-breaking performances was Harrison Barnard. Harrison finished 3rd in the 100 Backstroke with a new school record of 51.87 and then finished 4th in the 200 Freestryle with a new school record of 1:41.98.
Woodward Academy’s Girls Swimming and Diving squad qualified 10 individuals for this year’s State Championships. While not finishing in the top five this season, the young Lady War Eagle squad appears primed for a strong 2020 season.