E.A. Sports Today

Hungry like a wolf

Alexandria wrestler Knop signs NLI with N.C. State, will celebrate the occasion with teammates later today

Alexandria wrestler Christian Knop listens as Valley Cubs coach Frank Hartzog reads Knop’s list of accomplishments during the senior’s signing ceremony Thursday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Over the past three seasons Alexandria’s Christian Knop has won three state championships, completed three straight undefeated seasons and earned a scholarship to a Division I national contender wrestling program secured a scholarship to a Division I wrestling program

With all he’s accomplished you wonder what drives him now. Plenty.

CHRISTIAN KNOP

“What drives me now is pretty much the same thing that has always driven me – the want and desire to be the best,” the Valley Cubs senior said. “I told myself from Day One of wrestling I can do this, I can be the best, you just got to put your mind to it. You can’t be big headed; no matter how good you get, no matter how much progress you make, you still have the ability to become better.

“(U.S. Olympic gold medalist and multi-time world champion) Jordan Burroughs, still not the best. Me, still not the best, even though undefeated the last three years. Still not the best, still wanting more, still hungry.”

Knop fulfilled a lifetime dream Thursday when he signed and returned his NLI to anxious North Carolina State coaches. But not even that milestone, that might for some signal the end of a journey, has slowed his drive.

And it’s that work ethic, Valley Cubs coach Frank Hartzog said, that has made Knop the wrestler he is today.

Knop is 164-0 during his current run of state titles (250-32 all-time) and opens his senior season Tuesday at the Moody Duals. He hasn’t given up a takedown in two years and allowed only six points each of the last two seasons – when he has allowed his opponent up in order to score another takedown.

He needs 38 wins to break Weaver six-time state champion Michael Sutton’s state record for consecutive victories and 27 to break the county wins record held by Oxford’s Jordan Simpson (2009-13). If he runs the table again this season he will become the first wrestler in state history with four straight undefeated state championship seasons.

“I think you always dream of a kid being that successful, but how often does it happen,” Hartzog said. “It’s impossible without somebody who has that type of work ethic; that’s not normal. Most super athletes are super driven, they’re not what most people would consider normal, just above and beyond in everything they do and that’s Christian.

“If you look at his resume and what he does on a daily basis, you think you’re going to burn that kid out, but it doesn’t.”

Knop is part of an N.C. State recruiting class that is expected to be one of the top three in the country; it was No. 3 last year, No. 1 in 2016. He has a chance to break into the Wolfpack’s lineup as a freshman as his expected 197 slot will be occupied this season by a redshirt senior who served as Knop’s host on his official visit, but he’ll still have to earn it.

“We have been able to watch Christian develop over the last several years as both an athlete and as person,” Wolfpack coach Pat Popolizio said. “He is consistently improving because of his strong work ethic and determination. I am very excited that he will be a part of our program as we know he fits our mentality
very well. I am confident he will have a very successful career here at NC State both on and off the mat.”

The most significant wrestling signing in Calhoun County history wasn’t without a little drama, though.

Knop was expected to sign with the Wolfpack on Wednesday, but had a little trouble procuring his letter from school officials. The N.C. State coaches were a little worried late Wednesday night when the paperwork hadn’t arrived and texted him for an update saying he was an important element of the signing class, but Knop assured them his commitment was solid and once he got it sent on the paperwork first thing Thursday.

“It was kind of weird, but I wasn’t too worried about it,” he said. “They know me as a person and they know I have a goal and I’m a person who can be trustworthy and if they ask me to do something I’m going to do it. They were super chill about it and that showed a sign to me that they trust me.”

Here is a quick look at the Knop File:

• Three-time undefeated AHSAA state champion (56-0, 58-0, 50-0); 2018 Class 1A-5A MVP
• Ranked No. 11 at 195 by Intermat and WIN Magazine, No. 14 by Open Mat
• Ranked No. 97 among nation’s top 100 senior wrestlers
• 2015 Roller Eastern Worlds champion
• Four-time NHSCA Nationals All-American (2018 runnerup)
• 2016 Preseason Nationals All-American
• Two-time Super 32 Georgia qualifier champion (2016, 2017)
• Five-time Southeast Regional champion, one-time runnerup
• 2017 Fargo Nationals Junior double All-American
• 2018 Flo Nationals All-American (fifth)
• Two-time Disney Duals All-Star Division All-American (2017, 2018)
• 2017 Conflict at Carver National Champion
• Third-place, 2017 Journeymen Fall Classic
• Fifth-place, 2018 Journeymen Fall Classic
• 2017 UWW Cadet World Trials All-American

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