The Forsyth County News sports staff is counting down the top moments from the 2021 year. Here are moments 1-5.
5. Four wrestlers win state championships
Forsyth County had four wrestlers win a state championship this year.
West Forsyth’s Dylan Fairchild and Ethan Rickert, North Forsyth’s Bentley Wheeler and Forsyth Central’s Avery Krippner each captured a state title in February at the Macon Centreplex.
For Fairchild, Rickert and Wheeler, it meant finishing the season undefeated.
Fairchild spent fewer than three minutes on the mat during the state tournament and pinned all four opponents in the first period. He finished 73-0 at heavyweight and pinned every single one of his opponents in the first round during his senior season.
The state championship win marked Fairchild’s final wrestling match. Since then, he has enrolled at the University of Georgia as a four-star recruit at offensive line.
“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment, but I think it’ll be worth it,” Fairchild said earlier this year. “I think I did make the right decision with just sticking to football. I think once I get there to UGA, it’ll be enough. I’m definitely going to miss it. I’m going to miss Coach [Evan] Goff a lot. He was a real good mentor to me and a really big model for me. He really stuck with us for the past four years. I had football coaches in and out, in and out, in and out. He was the one guy that really stuck with the school, and he did what he said whenever we all first met him, which was he’s going to change our program forever – and he has.”
Rickert, Fairchild’s teammate, doubled West’s championship tally with a first-period pin, placing Denmark’s Ethan Culbreth in his signature headlock. The win helped boost West to second place in the team standings.
Krippner was ecstatic after beating North Forsyth’s Tristan Graham 7-2 in the finals. He had finished as a runner-up in 2020 but finally reached the summit as a senior.
"An undefeated season, keeping that 'O' on the loser's [column], it's just all the pressure in the world, and now it's finally over," Krippner said after the match. "The overwhelming adrenaline was just insane."
Wheeler was in a similar situation after reaching the title match as a sophomore in 2020. However, this time Wheeler capped his undefeated season with a 3-1 win in the finals.
"It felt great, because last year it didn't go so good in the finals," Wheeler said after the match. "To go the whole year without losing, it's just amazing."
4. Landon Sims guides Mississippi State baseball to national title
South Forsyth alum Landon Sims took the college baseball landscape by storm this season, assembling a dominant season that ended with Mississippi State winning its first national championship – in any sport.
Sims was an enormous part of that success.
He went 5-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out an otherworldly 100 batters in 56 1/3 innings.
Fittingly, the ball was in his hands when the Bulldogs needed to close out Vanderbilt in Game 3 of the three-game series. Sims turned in three innings of one-hit relief, shutting out the Commodores and striking out four batters – the final strikeout boosting him to 100 on the season.
Sims’ dominance began early in the season, when he racked up 10 strikeouts in four innings of one-hit relief against Texas. In his next outing, he struck out 10 more in just 3 2/3 innings against Tulane.
He carried a 0.49 ERA through his first 17 outings before hitting a snag against Tennessee in late May. After that, Sims gave up just three runs all season.
“I’ve just been competitive my whole life," Sims said in July. "Whether it was a big deal or little deal, playing whiffle ball in the backyard with my friends or playing in the national championship, I want to win at everything. Nobody likes losing. Ever since I can remember I’ve really, really hated losing. I think it makes everything a little bit more fun sometimes, when you’re competitive. It brings the stakes of the game a little higher, and the intensity. The good feeling when you win and you’re super competitive is pretty second-to-none.”
3. Five soccer teams reach championship, two win titles
Forsyth County sent five teams to the state championships in soccer this year, with West Forsyth’s girls and South Forsyth’s boys winning titles.
Both Class 7A state championship matches were all-Forsyth County affairs. West beat Lambert 1-0 in the girls finals and South’s boys topped Lambert 2-1 in the boys finals.
Also representing the county was Pinecrest Academy in the Class 1A Private state championship. The Paladins fell narrowly to Holy Innocents’ after making the tournament as the No. 4 seed. Pinecrest won four road matches and upset two No. 1 seeds to reach the finals.
West’s state championship win served as the bookend to Tori DellaPeruta’s magnificent senior season. The Wolverines’ UNC-bound forward scored 54 goals to shatter the program record. Her 54th goal came off the foot of Sarah Harrell and broke the ice early in the second half.
The Wolverines’ defense made DellaPeruta’s goal standup as they posted their 13th clean sheet with Haylee Dornan in goal.
South’s boys avenged an earlier loss to the Longhorns, 2-0, and won the state championship as the No. 4 seed. The War Eagles played all five matches on the road, which began with a 2-1 win over top-seeded Discovery. South upended Mountain View 3-1 before beating Harrison 3-2, then knocked off No. 1 South Gwinnett to reach the championship match.
Dino Stavros scored the game-winner in overtime to will the War Eagles past Lambert days after finding the back of the net against South Gwinnett.
The win made head coach Chere Thomas the first female coach to win a boys state championship in Georgia.
2. Jack Aikins shines at Olympic Trials
West Forsyth grad Jack Aikins nearly became Forsyth County’s first Olympian in June when he reached the final stage of the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.
Aikins finished seventh in the 200 backstroke [1:57.90], shaving nearly three seconds off his qualifying time and nearly qualifying him for the Tokyo Games. Aikins, who graduated from West in May, was the youngest swimmer in the finals and came to the Trials with the 30th-fastest qualifying time in the 200 back.
Aikins reached the 200 back finals after swimming a 1:57.50 and finishing fifth in the semifinals. Aikins led the race by 0.26 seconds after the first 100 meters, posting 50-meter splits of 27.23 and 28.95.
Ryan Murphy finished first and Bryce Mefford placed second. Murphy won silver at the Tokyo Games and Mefford finished fourth.
Aikins also captured four state titles at the Class 7A swim and dive state championships, winning the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free and 400 free relay.
1. Lambert girls golf wins national championship
Lambert capped the most dominant season by a Forsyth County team on a national stage, winning the 2021 NHSGA High School Golf National Invitational at Pinehurst Resort by a remarkable 28 strokes.
The tournament featured state champion high school teams from across the country.
Lambert finished with a 27-over 891 and placed three golfers inside the top 10 individually. Sara Im surged to a fifth-place finish after carding a 3-under 69, while Iris Cao tied for sixth and finished 5-over for the tournament, and Sharon Mun shot 7-over across the three-day tournament to tie for 10th.
Averi Cline birdied four straight holes during the final round to move her to 17th overall.
Lambert captured the Class 7A state championship by 42 strokes in May and won the Area 2-7A tournament by 59 strokes in April.
"It's a dream come true, honestly," Mun said after the match. "We were pretty nervous coming into this tournament. We knew South Carolina had some players and Arizona had won it before, so I think we all told ourselves to just play the best we can and just push through since it's a tiring three days."
"Honestly, it's just kind of unreal because I grew up with all of them playing golf when we were, like, 10," Cline said. "So, to all come to the same high school after coming from different middle schools is kind of unreal. We just got to grow up together. We knew we had a team that could win a national championship. We put in all the work that we needed to, and it just came down to performing."
The Longhorns will return all but one golfer in the spring, with the only exception being Mun, who is continuing her career at Emory University.
"It helps you sleep at night when you know you've got four national champions on your team coming back," Lambert head coach Shane Fortenberry said.