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DULUTH — When the wrestling season started, Flowery Branch junior Danny Bell never envisioned it ending like this. Maybe that’s a good thing.
The Falcons’ 119-pounder defeated Eastside’s Danny Gatt, 6-1, earning the Class AAA traditional state title Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Bell joins B.J. Johnson (2004) as the only state wrestling champions in Flowery Branch history.
“I’m just so happy right now,” said Bell, still winded after his championship match. “As soon as it was over, I just started jumping up and down.”
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said. “Danny’s been a leader on this team all season and displays a tremendous work ethic.”
Bell’s finals victory started to take shape when he recorded his second take down of the match to build a 4-0 lead. Bell defeated Gatt last weekend in the Class AAA east sectionals, recording a much closer one-point victory. From that match, Lancaster says they learned how Gatt had a tendency to throw on the opponents legs. “I just had to fight off his legs,” Bell said.
Bell finished the season with a 61-2 record, an Area 7-AAA title and Hall County championship under his belt. Flowery Branch’s other state placer this season is Brandon Dyer (130) at fifth.
Riverside Military Academy senior Colton Keig (285) lost in the Class AA finals, 7-3 in overtime against Westminster’s L.B. Joel. Keig tied the score 3-3 late in the third period, but Joel secured the win with a takedown with only seconds left in overtime.
Keig advanced to the finals with a decision victory over Toombs County’s Neal Rogers in Friday’s semifinals. Keig lost this same matchup against Rogers last weekend in the Class AA east sectionals. Keig is just the second Riverside wrestler to make a state final in the GHSA.
“Colton did a great job,” Riverside coach Errol Bisso said. “We couldn’t have asked any more out of him … we’re very proud.”
Jefferson High’s wrestling program continued its long history of success this season at the traditionals. After wining eight straight state team titles in Class A, the Dragons moved to Class AA this season extending their state record to nine straight traditional team titles. Sophomore Cason Thurmond (103) and senior Zac Crosby (171) were Jefferson’s two individual state champions this season.
Jefferson finished first with 225.5 points followed by Lovett (133) and Toombs County (120).
“This one is real sweet winning it in AA,” Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said. “(Class) AA has very tough wrestling.”
Crosby, a two-time state champion, won in a rematch of the state sectionals against Toombs County’s Scottie Roach. Last weekend, Crosby defeated Roach by just one point in the semifinals. He watched video of last week’s match to fine tune his effort this time around.
“I just wanted to wrestle hard from beginning to end,” Crosby said. “Winning state is better the second time.”
“Zac came out there on fire today,” Thurmond said.
Jefferson’s Jay Fowler (152) came up short in his attempt to leave its program as a four-time state champion. He lost in four overtime periods against Swainsboro’s Wade Farrow. The undefeated Farrow earned the deciding two points in the final second of the fourth OT.
Jefferson’s two-time state champion Cam Thurmond (135) lost in the championship match to four-time state champion Bryan Benton of Toombs County. Last week, Thurmond had the upper hand defeating Benton in the sectional finals.
Cutler Finch (125) and Patrick Allen (215) also finished as state runner-up for the Dragons.
Jackson County’s Ryan Howe (189), Buford’s Nick Voss (145), Dawson County’s Joe Perry (130) also won individual state titles. White County’s Caleb Morris (103) finished as a state runner-up in Class AAA.
Jefferson helped secure its latest state title with a strong showing in the consolation semifinals and finals. Cain Finch (130) and Zach Allen (189) each won twice Saturday to secure third place finishes. Daniel Barber (112) and Ben Knight (145) each finished fourth for Jefferson and Forrest Przybysz placed sixth.
White County’s Blake Limbaugh (160) and Tyler Hamilton (285) each took third place. Limbaugh stayed alive in the consolation bracket with a last-second victory in Friday’s consolation quarterfinals. After a consolation semifinal forfeit, Limbaugh only had to wrestle once to earn third. Hamilton won in the consolation finals by fall against Riverwood’s Mwangi Mugi.
Lumpkin County’s Brandon Roberts (189) finished third and Jake McClure (189) placed fifth.
From Buford, Billy Anderton (135) placed third and Scottie Forrester (152) finished sixth.
Commerce’s Doug Maloch (119) and Phillip Edwards (145) each finished as state runner-up. Casey Drinkard (130) and Jon Cash (140) each placed third for the Tigers. Addison Davis (112) and Terrance Martin (160) both finished fourth for the Tigers. Banks County’s Tramane Mayfield (285) placed third, Matthew Patton finished fourth (215) and Demetric Dempson placed fifth (171).