The Trojans suffered a 38-36 setback to fellow Class AAAA power Alexander in the championship match of the Area 5-AAAA Duals in Douglasville, while the Eagles dropped a 47-27 decision to Gordon Lee, the reigning Class A state co-champion, in the finals of the Area 3-A Duals at Darlington.
For Mt. Zion, which beat Trion, 66-9, in the semifinals, this marks the third straight trip to Macon for the state duals, something Eagle coach Michael Cleek believes is the benchmark this particular group has set as a standard for the MZ program.
“It’s just continuing the road to becoming a good wrestling team and trying to leave a legacy for people to look at. To see that the wrestling team is really stepping up, and they’re making the case for us. This is our third year in a row to go to the state duals with this group of kids, and I think the experience is really showing,” Cleek said.
“They know what it takes. They are working really hard in the practice room. They’re staying dedicated, staying mentally set to go and wrestle. They realize that every time they step on the mat, it’s for real. It is serious. It’s not something to take lightly. And that’s a credit to this group of young men. They have really stepped up, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
First-year Carrollton coach Ryan Wilman was looking for an infusion of effort from his squad, something he felt was lacking in a dual loss at Bremen on Wednesday. Needless to say, he was also pleased with the showing on Saturday.
“It was a complete turnaround for our guys. I was really, really impressed with the way we competed. I thought our guys were mentally prepared, physically prepared and did an excellent job with their technique,” Wilman said of the area performance, which also included a 51-13 victory over Fayette County in the semifinals.
“Obviously, it gives us a chance to move forward into the state duals. I think the thing there is you’re probably looking at Alexander as the second best team in the state, as far as a dual team goes. So as far as all the teams going into the state tournament from our classification, Alexander and Carrollton really got some great competition to find out where we’re at and prepare ourselves to go out and battle for a state title next week.”
The match of the day for the Trojans proved to be senior Travis Joyce’s 3-2, triple-overtime victory against Cougar stalwart DeAndre Sims. For Mt. Zion, freshman Efren Valles provided a huge upset of Gordon Lee state champion Alex Spires, recording a pin at 138 pounds. Cleek also had high praise for Ashton Robinson’s 5-4 victory at 106 pounds, along with Javier Martinez getting a pin at 132.
Both Cleek and Wilman must now await today’s seeding meeting in Thomaston, where the top four seeds from each classification will be unveiled for next week’s state duals in Macon.
And even though the Trojans aren’t one of the eight area champions in AAAA, Wilman believes his team deserves one of those top four spots.
“Traditionally, they have not seeded the teams that have taken second out of their area above any of the area champs, but they have kind of changed their philosophy a little bit and recognized that you may have teams like Carrollton and Alexander — who are arguably 2-3 and possibly 1-2 in the state. Just because you take second in your area doesn’t mean that another area champ is better than guys,” Wilman said.
“So I’ll be going down there and fighting for us to get as good a seed as we can. In my opinion, Gilmer’s a one seed, Alexander’s a two seed and Carrollton’s a three seed. We’ll see if they see it my way, but I think we’re every bit as good as Alexander and Gilmer — and I think those are the top two seeds.”
It’s a bit of a different animal for Cleek and the Eagles with just eight teams rounding out the Class A field. The four teams representing the two northern areas include MZ, perennial power Commerce and the reigning Class A co-champions — Holy Innocents’ and Gordon Lee.
Cleek wasn’t sure of the four teams that advanced from the south, but he said the three others from the north alone make for a daunting slate.
“You’ve got your hands full just with the fact that you’ve more than likely got to wrestle Commerce, Gordon Lee and Holy Innocents’ — that’s enough of a day’s work right there,” Cleek said. “But we’re very much looking forward to the opportunity to see what we can do.”
Area 2-AAA Duals
The Central High School wrestling team went 0-2 on Saturday, dropping a 45-21 match to top-seeded and eventual area champion Sonoraville, and then suffered a 48-33 setback to Cartersville, which went on to take third place.
The Lions got wins from Avery Ward (120), Jacob Terry (138), Jarrett Thomas (160), Joe Simpkins (170) and Kirey Thompson (195) against Sonoraville and Simon Barber (106), Colton Kelly (113), Ward, Terry, Thomas and Thompson against the Purple Hurricanes.
Central coach Marcus Marenda said his guys battled hard and had a chance to upset Cartersville and potentially take third place at North Murray on Saturday.
“At 126, Timothy Duffey was in a matchup where I think he would have been able to pick up a win by decision, but he just got caught in a couple of bad moves and we ended up on our back and that’s a nine-point swing for us. At 138, Jacob Terry was wrestling really well and I think he just ran out of gas. That was a match where he actually pinned the kid — he had him on his back three times — and just couldn’t get the call. At 152, Levi Huckeba was wrestling and controlling the match and winning the match before he had an issue with his shoulder and we had to injury default him out. You take those three matchups, and those were the difference-makers for us,” Marenda said. “We were very, very close to picking up a nice upset of Cartersville. But, again, I was very proud of how all of our kids wrestled.”