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Jefferson wins 13th straight state wrestling state title

POSTED: February 16, 2013 8:31 p.m.

MACON — Jefferson’s Jace McColskey left Saturday’s traditional state championship wrestling meet feeling extremely satisfied as a first-time state champion in the final high school match he’ll ever wrestle.

McColskey earned the Class AA individual state championship at 182 pounds at the Macon Centreplex, and he was one of four state champions for the Class AA state champion Dragons.

Jefferson (192 points) earned its 13th consecutive state championship in the traditionals, ahead of second-place Bremen (133.5) and Toombs County in third. Also winning state titles for the Dragons were Chase Piperato (106), Ben Kelly (113) and Tyler Marinelli (138).

And even with such an impressive streak of state titles, it doesn’t get old to add a new one for Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond.

“They’re all special,” Thurmond said. “It’s a different group of seniors every year that have been with the program for years and worked extremely hard.”

The Dragons also had a state runner-up and five third-place finishers, a nice boost after losing some matches Thurmond felt the Dragons could have won Friday in the semifinals.

“That was a real good finish and good pickup with the guys that got third place,” Thurmond said.

McColskey won with a 7-2 decision in the championship match against Corey Erdoes of Lovett. The first-time state champion for the Dragons had to earn the state title out of his comfort zone and on his feet. He says working in neutral is his biggest strength.

But the end result was what mattered most.

“Winning the state championship is the most exciting, exhilarating moment in my life,” McColskey said.

His back story made his victory an even bigger feel-good story. The Dragons’ 182-pounder endured a torn meniscus, followed by surgery in his right knee each of the three previous seasons. Even with the pain and missed time wrestling, he never thought about hanging it up.

It all paid off with a state championship. McColskey says his motivation all season was his grandfather, Ed McColskey, who died in the fall.

“My grandfather has been my guardian angel,” McColskey said.

Marinelli, a junior, earned his second state championship for the Dragons. His win was far from dramatic. Early in the first period, Marinelli jumped on top to earn a 15-0 victory. He says wrestling on this stage previously made his return trip easier to digest mentally and physically.

“Winning a state championship feels amazing,” Marinelli said. “To know you’re the best in one of the toughest sports is a great feeling.”

Naturally, he wants to go out with his third state championship in 2014.

Lumpkin County’s Greg Hilliard, a sophomore, also won a state title early in his match at 113 in Class AAAA. Hilliard says that his strategy all along was to go after the arm drag, but after his opponent Isaiah Knight of Heritage went in for a shot on his body, the winner took advantage with a head lock.

To prepare for the match, Hilliard spent an hour warming up away from the crowds in the hallways of the Coliseum.

“I didn’t think the match would go this fast at all,” Hilliard said after the win.

Lumpkin County’s last state champion before Hilliard was Travis Burton in 2011. He was recognized with a day in his honor at the school afterward, says Hilliard.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a Greg Hilliard Day at Lumpkin County High now,” he said with a grin.

In Class AAA, Buford finished with three state champions, led by three-time state champion Chip Ness, a junior, at 182. Also winning state for the Wolves were Jack Barber (113) and Brayden Hartley (126).

North Hall had a pair of second place finishers: Taylor Marett (106) and Tyler Kratzer (145).

Riverside Military’s Christopher Harvey (120) was a state runner-up in Class AA.

In Class A, third-place Commerce had a state champion in 220-pounder Chance McClure.

In the Class AAA standings, Banks County, which had one individual state champ in Chris McCrackin (106), placed third with 88 points, one spot ahead of Buford (84.5).

Jackson County's Daivon Ledford (170) also won a state title.


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