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Area traditionals: Chestatee sends nine to semifinals
War Eagles hold a slim lead over Oconee County
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Area 8-AAA traditional wrestling

Team standings

1. Chestatee  88.5

2. Oconee County  82.5

3. Lumpkin County  82

4. North Hall  70.5

5. Gainesville 62

6. Johnson  54.5

7. Stephens County  53.5

8. Monroe Area  49

9.  White County  47

10. West Hall  38

11. Lanier  34

12. Franklin County  29

13. Walnut Grove  19

With all the upsets in Friday's opening rounds of the Area 8-AAA traditional tournament, Chestatee junior Bart Velasquez (113 pounds) was happy just to be standing for today's semifinal round and in the hunt for a spot in the state sectionals.

"At this point of the season, I treat every practice like it could be my last of the season," said Velasquez.

Velasquez, the top-seeded wrestler in his weight class, only need one pin to advance following a first-round bye.

After two rounds in both the winners and consolation bracket in the first day, wrestling begins at 9 a.m. today with the semifinals at Chestatee High.

Following that is the wrestle-backs for all 14 weight classes.

The top four wrestlers and a fifth-place alternate move on to the Class AAA state sectionals next Friday at West Laurens High in Dexter.

For Velasquez, the area tournament couldn't have started any better. He won in three rounds and is one of nine War Eagles wrestlers alive in the semifinals.

Chestatee advanced all 13 into the second day of wrestling and took a first-day team points lead (88.5).

Oconee County is second (82.5), Lumpkin County is sitting in third (82), North Hall is currently fourth (70.5) and Gainesville is fifth (62).

"I'm very happy about the fact we have all 13 coming back (today)," Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow said.

Upsets also played a big role in the first day of the individual meet.

At 285, three of the top four seeds, based on the coaches' meeting Thursday night to rank wrestlers, were pushed down to the consolation bracket.

The No. 1-seeded heavyweight, Stephens County's Josh Hale, was the only one out of that group to push on to the semifinals.

Chestatee's Brandon Miller was the wrestler who stepped up and beat the second-seeded grappler in the weight class.

With so many highly-seeded wrestlers getting knocked off in the quarterfinal round, it will make for especially competitive matches in the wrestle-back rounds with state sectional spots still in the picture.

"It really elevates the urgency for those guys that were upset early to win," said West Hall coach Eric Radich, who has three wrestling today in the semifinals.

Only the 64 wrestlers in the semifinals are eligible to win the area title, which converts to a No. 1 seed to the sectionals.

"Anything goes when you get to this point in the season with area, sectionals and state," said Lumpkin County coach Brian Matthews, who had five advance to the semifinals.

The Indians jumped into the third-place position with the return of No. 1 seed Michael Hilliard (160), who won his only match Friday after missing a couple of weeks due to an illness, and two wins from junior varsity wrestler Victor Ramos to also qualify for the semifinals.

North Hall also started the weekend strong with seven wrestlers moving on to the semifinals. Taylor Marett (106), Matt Joy (113), Tyler Goss (120), Andy Voss (132), Tyler Kratzer (138), A.J. Berry (160) and Cam Howell (220) all advanced for the Trojans, who are coming off a third-place finish at the Hall County championships last weekend.

In other weight classes, many top-seeded wrestlers moved through without any trouble, setting the stage for potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 battles in the finals.

"The fireworks start (today)," North Hall coach Jay Hargis said.


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