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Banks County, Jefferson win wrestling state duals titles
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The Banks County wrestling team finished the championship match with three consecutive pins to topple traditional power Woodward Academy 34-33 on Saturday at the Class AAA state duals tournament at the Macon Centreplex.

Leopards coach Kasey Hanley, whose team had never finished higher than fourth in the tournament until this season, noted that it was also the first team state championship in school history.

“I just really hope that it builds more school spirit,” Hanley said. “I hope it catapults our wrestling program and gives the athletes at Banks County the confidence to take it to the next level.

“Woodward is a traditional powerhouse and their kids our well coached. We figured up on paper last night that we had to pin those matches to get the lead.”

The Leopards trailed by 13 points going into the match at 170 pounds — and knowing they would be forfeiting the final match at 220 — needed to take a seven-point lead after 195.

Wes Faulkner (170 pounds), Eli Smallwood (182) and Matt Dilbeck (195) all finished a 3-0 tournament with a pin, and Banks County held on by one point after forfeiting the final match of the day.

Chris McCracken and Taylor Wood also finished 3-0 for the tournament, and Josh Bellows went 1-0 for the Leopards.

Hanley said the goal all year was a state title. After another 34-33 win against Oconee County in the Area 4-AAA final, that goal looked like a real possibility.

“Our kids worked hard all year and they never wavered — they didn’t even celebrate the semifinal win,” said Hanley, who added that the team had its best fan support. “They came in to win a state championship.”

Hanley also mentioned assistant coaches Sam Baxter, Mark Crook, Tyson Baxter and Adam Nichols as playing large roles on the road to a state title.

DRAGONS CONTINUE STREAK: The Jefferson wrestling team won its 12th consecutive state duals title Saturday with a 47-16 win over former Class A power Bremen in the Class AA finals at the Macon Centreplex.

Chase Piperato (106 pounds), Ben Kelly (113), Kyle Kashuba (120), Tanner Thurmond (132), Tyler Marinelli (138), Jack Dollar (145), Zach Rhymer (160), Tradd Porter (170), Jace McColskey (182) and Aaron Anderson (220) all finished 3-0 for the tournament.

Despite the sizable margin in the championship match, Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said it started out as a close, back-and-forth match.

“It went back and forth and then all the sudden our guys started taking off,” he said. “Our guys just rose to the occasion.”

With the win, the Dragons continue their streak of state duals titles that has spanned the entire length of the state duals tournament in Georgia, meaning Jefferson is now 12 for 12.

“They didn’t break the chain this year in duals,” Thurmond said. “I’m real proud of this team hanging on to that.

“Now we’ve got to do that with traditional.”

Bremen, which returned four individual state champion wrestlers off last season’s Class A traditional state championship team, could once again prove to be the Dragons’ biggest competition in the way of a 13th consecutive traditional state title.

COMMERCE FINISHES 3RD IN CLASS A: After a loss to eventual Class A state champions Gordon Lee on Friday, the Tigers rallied with two wins Saturday to finish third in the state duals tournament in Macon.

Grayson Cochran, Tyreke Wiggins, Trent Reddish, Morgan Flint and Chance McClure all finished the tournament 4-0 for Commerce, which has now finished in the top four for the fifth consecutive year.

“I was proud of the guys,” Tigers coach Kendall Love said. “They really wrestled well.”

Commerce defeated Turner County 52-17 on Saturday morning to advance to the consolation finals, where the Tigers took down Mt. Zion, Carroll 55-21.

Commerce finished the tournament 3-1 despite forfeiting the 106 and 113 weight classes in each of the matches.

“We were really down 12-0 before we started,” Love said. “But we came out today and had a good day. I felt like we wrestled physical.”

The Tigers finished fourth in the state duals last year and second the year before.

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