Untouchable: St. John Vianney sophomore Anthony Knox wins second state title with dominant performance
ATLANTIC CITY -- Anthony Knox is a different breed, a wrestler so talented and driven that his skyward goals are to accomplish what so few have in New Jersey wrestling history. He entered high school aiming to become a four-time state champion, and now, he's halfway there.
The St. John Vianney sophomore was untouchable for the three-day NJSIAA Wrestling State Tournament at Boardwalk Hall this weekend, overpowering his competition en route to claiming the New Jersey 120-pound state championship. He outscored his opponents 84-22 across five bouts and allowed just two offensive points, which came on a reversal in the semifinals. He was up by so much at that juncture that yielding those points made no difference. He won by major decision over two returning state champions, DePaul's Adrian DeJesus in the semifinals (18-5) and Delbarton's Daniel Jones in the championship bout, 10-2.
"It's awesome, it's surreal being a two-time state champ," Knox said. "I'm exceeding all the things I thought I could accomplish when I was 7, 8 years old."
Knox is St. John Vianney's second two-time state champion, joining current Rutgers 125-pounder Dean Peterson, who won state titles in 2019 and 2020.
Knox was expected to win and he did exactly that. Given that his bracket also featured two other state champions in DeJesus and Jones and Knox was the clear favorite speaks volumes about his abilities.
"I think I'm pretty good but I can shock myself sometimes, too," Knox said. "I went out in the semis and thinking it was going to be a hard-fought match and I dominated him. It comes from what I do in the gym and now much work I put into everything."
Knox finished the season 39-0 and is 72-1 in his career. He entered high school with the goal of going undefeated over four years, but that was eliminated when he suffered a loss in last season's Escape the Rock final. That loss hurt, but he recalibrated and rolled to the 113-pound state title as a freshman. The same thing happened during this past summer and fall when he lost in the Fargo finals to Ohio's Marcus Blaze and in the Super 32 final to Pennsylvania's Bo Bassett. Like Knox, both are ranked among the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in America.
"Marcus Blaze and Bo Bassett, I can thank those guys a thousand times over because they made me better," Knox said. "I sat down and looked at what I could do better and fixed bad habits. I'm a completely different wrestler now, and I'm coming for everybody's heads."
Wrestling at this high a level is certainly not as easy as Knox has made it look. Wrestlers who are usually the favorite are not anymore because of Knox's presence. That doesn't mean he takes his opponents lightly. Far from it. But he is simultaneously wrestling against his opponents and himself while chasing the perfection of his craft.
"It's so important," Knox said of wrestling the best competition and learning from mistakes. "I'm always chasing losses or just chasing small losses, like in the round of 16 for example. I knew that guy (Matawan's Lawrence Liss) was good on top but I chose bottom anyway. I might have gotten rid for a minute but I got out and I got better. That's what I'm chasing nowadays."
"I know I'll never reach perfection because nothing is ever perfect, but that's what I'm chasing day in and day out and I'm not going to stop."
Knox was excellent as a freshman, then perfect as a sophomore. He's halfway to becoming New Jersey's fifth four-time state champion and joining the exclusive list that includes Delbarton's Mike Grey, Bound Brook's Andrew Campolattano, South Plainfield's Anthony Ashnault, and Bergen Catholic's Nick Suriano. It won't be easy - it wasn't for the four that preceded him - but Knox is on that trajectory.
The Anthony Knox that walked out of Boardwalk Hall as a freshman was great. The version of him that exited on Saturday reached another level. What will the future hold? For Knox, his vision is clear.
Two down, two to go.