HARDIN VALLEY — Hardin Valley Academy’s new face in its wrestling program, head coach Marc Giles, is no stranger to Knox County high school wrestling.
Giles, also an assistant football coach on Wes Jones’ HVA staff, comes back to coach wrestling after a hiatus. He previously coached at West High School.
Along Sutherland Avenue, Giles built the Runnin’ Rebels program from scratch and guided West to three district championships and two region titles in 2010 and 2012.
“I’m excited to be back in the sport. When I quit coaching wrestling at West, I didn’t think I would ever coach wrestling again,” he said. “But I’m glad to be back because our community support is awesome.”
The Hawks entered this season as two-time defending district champions under former head coach Diego Contreras.
“We’ve won two district championships in a row, and now I want to win region and state championships, and we have some good young kids,” Giles said.
One of those good young wrestlers is Josh Pietralia, a sophomore who wrestles in the 160-pound weight class. He took fifth place at the recent Bradley Central Invitational, one of the elite wrestling tournaments in the state.
“That was big for him because by the time you get through a bracket at Bradley, it’s like wrestling at the state tournament,” Giles said of Pietralia’s performance. “You had some great [Tennessee] kids there and you had some great Georgia teams there.”
The Hawks also put up a solid effort at Knoxville Catholic Invitational in early December. Hardin Valley finished seventh overall in the 28-team event.
Pietralia won in the 160-pound division. Keenan Sloan (285 pounds) and Ty Hemry (138) both came in third in their respective weight classes. Dawson Hardesty finished fourth in the 220-pound division.
Hardin Valley now competes in District 5-AAA along with Bearden, Farragut, Catholic and Stone Memorial.
The Hawks will host the Region 3-AAA Tournament Saturday, Feb. 10, as the 5-AAA teams will be joined by District 6-AAA squads from Heritage, Maryville, William Blount and Lenoir City.
Though Hardin Valley has some younger wrestlers this season, “My philosophy is that if you wrestle, you’re on the varsity [team],” Giles said.
The Hawks also have one of the top female wrestlers in the state in senior Kenya Sloan — who has never lost a high school match.
She’s a three-time state champ and a team captain along with Marshall Murphey, Pietralia, Cody Green, Hemry and Zach Broemmel.
Hardin Valley will have its next home meet Tuesday, Jan. 9, against Grace Christian Academy and Anderson County.