The Mt. Zion High School wrestling coach noted that the high volume of Eagles headed to the Macon Centreplex bodes well for MZ’s goal of bringing home some hardware next weekend.
“It’s extremely important. At this point when you’re going into the state tournament, if you’re going to have any shot at all at placing in the top five — and that’s our goal is to try to place in the top five — you have to bring enough kids so that even if they win only one match, those are points that are accumulating. The more kids that you take, the better opportunity you are going to have to score points,” Cleek said. “It’s a numbers game right now. The more kids you get through, the better chance you have at placing. We achieved our goal [Saturday].”
Leading the way for the Eagles was senior Javier Martinez and junior Will Sizemore, with Martinez capturing a sectional crown at 132 pounds, while Sizemore won a sectional title at heavyweight.
Earning second-place finishes were Ashton Robinson (106), Hunter Smith (113), Fernando Valles (145) and Daniel Anderson (182), while fourth-place efforts went out to Mitchell Chambers (120), Dillion Lovell (126), Nathan Whaley (195) and Eugene “Buddha” McClure (220).
Cleek was especially excited for Martinez, his lone senior, to win the sectional title and punch his ticket to Macon and end his high school career on the big stage.
“It’s awesome. I’m so proud for him to have the opportunity that he has. I’ve watched this young man grow up since he was in seventh grade. I’ve been there with him through the good times and the bad. I can’t say enough of how proud I am of him and the job that he’s done,” Cleek said.
Class AAAAA West Sectional at Allatoona
The Villa Rica High School wrestling team also enjoyed a historic day, qualifying three wrestlers for state in senior Josh Ivey (113) and sophomores Sam Preston (120) and Tristan Ware (132).
Ware finished in third place, while Ivey and Preston recorded seventh-place finishes. Michael Hurley (106), Maurice McGuire (170) and Demetris Flemister (195) all came in 10th place, just missing the top-eight cut.
Wildcat coach Kyle Seeley said getting the state breakthrough is a great feeling and a huge step for the VR program.
“I’m very excited. That was one of our goals this year was to get three guys out to the state championship. We definitely reached that goal. It’s improvement from last year. And I think if we just keep improving each year, that’s going to be big for our program with the continued success,” Seeley said.
Class AAAA West Sectional at Pickens County
The Carrollton High School wrestling squad took 11 wrestlers to Pickens County and will be sending 10 to state with one alternate.
The Trojans had three sectional champions in Turner Martin (145), Taylor Lujan (152) and Travis Joyce (182), while Jake Adcock (126) and Rhett Hembree (132) recorded runner-up finishes.
Rounding out the state qualifiers were Dan Harris (160) and Murphy Hagen (195) in fourth, Bryan Johnson (106) in fifth, Chris Foster (120) in seventh and Cole Glommen (hvy) in eighth. Christian Gutierrez came in ninth at 113 pounds and will be an alternate.
Carrollton coach Ryan Wilman could not be reached for comment as of press time Saturday evening.
Class AAA West Sectional at Ringgold
Central High School’s Jarrett Thomas kept his senior season alive with a third-place showing at 152 pounds on Saturday, making a return trip to Macon. Fellow senior Avery Ward (120) and freshman Joe Simpkins (182) missed the cut to qualify.
Second-year Central coach Marcus Marenda said Thomas suffered a controversial overtime setback against a grappler from Sonoraville, but rebounded with back-to-back pins for the third-place showing.
And after getting bounced early at state last year, Marenda believes his senior leader is coming in with a different attitude this year.
“Last year he was 0-2 and he was quite content just to be there. This year he’s definitely focused,” Marenda said of Thomas, who is now 47-9 on the season.
Class AA West Sectional at Lamar County
The Bremen High School wrestling team’s bid for a fifth consecutive state championship took a hit on Saturday, as it got eight of the 11 guys it took to sectionals through, but Blue Devil coach Tony Armas isn’t so sure that will be enough to pull out the title in Macon.
“I think we’ll be OK, in terms of individuals, but it’ll be very difficult to win the team title now,” Armas said.
The Blue Devils had three sectional champions in sophomore Brock Cooper (132) and seniors Kannon Madden (152) and Joe Bexley (hvy), while Cory Morgan (126), Joseph Stroud (145) and Luke Campbell (113) took second. Tristan Williams (138) and Darron Boxley (170) also qualified with fourth-place finishes.
Bremen endured a gut-wrenching spurt where Austin Capes (106), Jacob Bumgardner (120) and Jesse Eriquezzo (160) all suffered setbacks right after one another to result in fifth-place finishes, as the trio will all be alternates for the state tournament.
“It boils down to about 10 minutes. In a 10-minute span, we lost three matches by a total of five points in the conso semis. I mean, there was the tournament right there,” Armas said.
Armas is hopeful of sending his three seniors — Morgan, Madden and Bexley — out with more individual state titles to cap their prep careers, and then see where the team trophy falls from there.
“Kannon looked pretty solid and Joe is Joe. Cory got beat [Saturday], but there’s some things we’re going to work on to hopefully get a little better by next week. We’ve got to get through what we can,” Armas said.
Bowdon got four of its six sectional qualifiers through to state, led by senior Connor Wigginton’s first-place finish at 195 pounds. Rounding out the Red Devil qualifiers were Trevor McCray (106) in second, Saeje Brown (220) in third and Hunter Jones (113) in fourth.
Avery McWhorter (126) dropped a heartbreaker and bounced back to finish fifth and will serve as a state alternate and Hunter Lewis wrapped up his prep career with a sixth-place showing Saturday.
Red Devil coach Craig McWhorter said he was hopeful of taking everyone to Macon, but he’s proud of the effort all six gave on Saturday.
“Overall, the kids wrestled real hard. I’m real excited about next week ... we come close to getting all six of them through, which is the biggest disappointment. But all of them gave it a good shot,” Craig McWhorter said.
And for Wigginton and Brown, this marks their final week of high school wrestling, and Craig McWhorter is looking for big things from the senior duo.
“I think Connor is really excited. He wasn’t with us last year and it’s going to be new to him. But he deserves to be there. He’s had a great year and really worked hard and won a lot of big matches. Then Saeje got there last year and he was a little bit awestruck about it, but I don’t think it will bother him this year at all,” Craig McWhorter said.