Effingham County High School

Royal caps prep career with signing

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April 20, 2016

By Patrick Donahue

With two of his state championship rings adorning his right hand — the third won’t be in his possession until June — Isiah Royal signed a letter of intent last Wednesday morning. The Effingham County High School senior and three-time state wrestling champion is headed to Newberry College in South Carolina to wrestle with the Wolves. “It means the world to me, all that I have accomplished here and going to Newberry, said Royal. “I’m blessed to go to Newberry College and start a new chapter in my life. Royal capped his prep career with a championship in the Class AAAAA traditionals at 126 pounds in February. Effingham County coach Nico Guggino acknowledged he had nothing but accolades for Royal, who has become the most accomplished wrestler in Effingham high school annals. “He’s humble. He works hard, Guggino said. “You would never know he’s a three-time state champ walking the halls. Everything you want in a student-athlete, he is. We’re all proud of him. “He’s just a great person to have. We’re honored to have him. We helped him, but I think he helped us more. Guggino said he could recall only one occasion where Royal got upset, after a wrestler from Johnson delivered an elbow before the match. “That match was over in 30 seconds, the coach said. While Royal worked to become a three-time state champion, Guggino said his young pupil worked diligently to make himself a better student. “Every student that a teacher would want to have, Isiah is that kid, he said. “He works hard. He understands how important academics are. Said ECHS athletics director Tim Hood: “He’s a great kid. He’s a role model for everyone else to follow. Guggino met with Royal every day, with the young wrestler giving him progress reports on his grades. It’s a practice that hasn’t stopped with the end of Royal’s high school wrestling career. “He still brings me his progress reports now, Guggino said. Newberry boasts one of the top wrestling programs in NCAA Division II, and the Wolves finished 17th at this year’s nationals. The Wolves were national runners-up in 2009 and have had eight top-20 finishes since starting the program. Jason Valek, then the Newberry coach, got in touch with Royal not long after the state traditionals. After Valek resigned in March, interim coach R.C. LaHaye arranged a campus visit for Royal. “Earlier this year, I saw they had a great program, Royal said. “I love the campus. I like the wrestling program. They have a really good psychology program. Even with his accomplishments in tow, Royal is expecting to resume his efforts to be a top-flight wrestler. “Three state titles are great, but once I’m starting to wrestle at the collegiate level, I’m right back at the bottom, he said. “I have to work harder to get back on top.

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