LOCUST GROVE — This year’s Class AAA state traditional finals will be littered with area wrestlers from 8-AAA.
After a strong showing at the State Sectionals “B” on Saturday at Locust Grove High, 27 local wrestlers — including 13 from Hall County schools — placed within the top eight of their weight class to advance to state, which is next weekend at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Of those 27 local wrestlers, five earned No. 1 seeds.
“We exceeded expectations,” said White County coach Tim Bragg, whose Warriors sent an area-leading eight wrestlers to state. “I was thinking we’d have five advancing because this (competition in the east) is tough. Everyone says the west is tough, but I think it’s going to even out. There’s some good talent here in the east, with the combination of athleticism and wrestling ability.”
Warriors advancing were Tyler Reeves (189 pound weight class, fifth-place finish), Seth White (171, fourth), Bradley McDougald (160, second), Dylan Shearer (145, sixth), Michael Limbaugh (135, fifth), Anthony Galimore (112, sixth), Billy Wurtz (103, eighth), and Caleb Morris, who took the top seed at 130.
“For every meet I go to, I try to look at it as the state finals,” said Morris, a junior who won state last year. “Any match you wrestle, you have to treat it like that because if you don’t, it won’t be a happy ending.”
Chestatee and Lumpkin County each sent six wrestlers to state.
“We’re doing OK,” War Eagles coach Carey Whitlow said. “This is huge, going to the state meet in Gwinnett because some of the national wrestling associations come and watch how Georgia does it because it’s all five classifications under one roof. It’s a big show and now six of these guys get to be a part of it.”
Qualifying for Chestatee were Aaron Anderson (215, fourth), Daniel Moreno (171, second), Taylor Wright (152, seventh), Cody Etris (135, eighth), JW Gilbert (112, seventh) and Jose Reyes (103, third).
Indians coach Brian Matthews believes his team wrestled well.
“We brought eight and planned on at least three going, but we weren’t sure about the other guys,” Matthews said. “We were hoping to bring six or eight to state this year because we brought six last year, so we tied ourselves. And only one is a senior, so we feel good about keeping the same number going back next year.
“The kids did a great job under the pressure.”
Indians to qualify were Alex Ward (112, third), JT Todd (119, seventh), Aaron Salazar (145, eighth), Michael Hilliard (152, second), Lee Cagle (160, third) and Travis Burton, who earned a top seed at 215.
“I hope I can go all the way this year,” said Burton, a senior. “There’s a little extra pressure, I’m not going to lie. But I’m going to work hard as crap, stay in the weight room, stay running and do whatever the coaches tell me to and hopefully become a state champ.”
While other area teams sent more wrestlers than North Hall, the Trojans got the most bang for their buck. Of the four Trojans that entered sectionals, three — Lee Sisson (189), Shane Doster (171) and Tyler Krantzer (125) — earned top seeds and the other, Matt Joy, will go to the finals as a No. 8 seed.
“I can’t be more pleased with these guys,” Trojans coach Jay Hargis said. “We ran four guys and our goal was 100 percent going to state and we got it. These guys are peaking at the right time and it’s just neat to see them come through, and to be a champion here in these sectionals is a good feather to have in the hat, because all of these guys are good.”
Sisson, a senior, qualified for state for the second straight year, but this is his first as a No. 1 seed.
“It’s huge being a one seed,” Sisson said. “Things are starting to come together. I just don’t want to get cocky. There are a lot of good kids that will be at state next week, but I feel like I have a shot. Me and (Doster) train real hard, and I’d love to win it this year.”
Said Doster, who improved to 45-0 on the season, “It’s huge to be a one seed. If I was a No. 2, I would have been put on the same side as the defending state champ. Meeting him in the semis would have been tough. I needed this and I would have traded all 45 of my wins for this win because the seeding is that important.”
Krantzer is only a sophomore and a first-time state qualifier.
“I think I’m ready for state this year,” he said. “I’ve been working all year and all summer, so I’m just happy to finally be there. I just have to go out there and wrestle and do the same thing I’ve been doing all year, which is work hard during the week, make sure I keep my weight down by eating the right things, have all the energy I can and just wrestle hard.”
West Hall is sending two wrestlers to state with Logan Herford (145, fourth) and Tanner Yates (140, sixth).
“We did fairly well by qualifying those two,” Spartans coach Eric Radich said. “I don’t think either was happy with their tournament because obviously they didn’t win it. But the good news is you don’t have to be champion of sectionals to be champion next week.”
Johnson’s lone wrestler, heavyweight Daniel Martinez, punched his ticket to state with a sixth-place finish.
“We’ve still got another week ahead,” Knights coach Richey Vickers said. “This isn’t the end of the road, but for some people, today definitely was. He’s still smiling and still happy to know everyone is still proud of what he’s done.
“I’m just glad we have another week to work hard and try to keep the momentum going.”