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Flowery Branch's Lankford, handful of Jefferson wrestlers make state finals
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DULUTH — Like any good wrestler, all Flowery Branch High’s Nick Lankford could think about after Friday night’s victory was getting ready for the next challenge.

After Lankford (103 pounds) won his Class AAA state semifinal match in come-from-behind fashion, he was more concerned about running to make weight for today’s state championship match — the most important wrestling match of his young career — rather than celebrate a win that’s already in the books at the all-classification state championships at the Gwinnett Arena.

“I thought I was going to win (the semifinals) by a lot more,” said Lankford, a sophomore. “But I give him credit, he took it to me.”

Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster was ecstatic afterward, realizing that his 103-pounder was able to battle through the Class AAA brackets in order to come within one match of a state title. Lankford advanced to the semifinals with a win by fall against Lakview-Fort Oglethorpe’s Chase Hale.

“I knew it was an outside possibility that Nick would be able to make it to the finals, but to be able to actually do what he’s done speaks volumes for how hard he’s worked,” Lancaster said.

In Lankford’s semifinal match against Columbus’ Kendall Talley, it was Lankford’s challenger that controlled the match for most of the first two periods. After Lankford tied the score at 2-all late in the second period, Talley took a one-point lead as a result of an illegal arm lock.

Still, Lankford’s persistence and conditioning paid off. Lankford hit a reversal to take a 4-3 lead with only :44 seconds left in the
match, and earned the final two points of the match with a near fall in the final seconds to make the final score 6-3.

In the finals, Lankford will wrestle Gilmer’s Justin Karr, a re-match of the Area 7-AAA championship match that the Bobcats’ wrestler won by a 9-5 decision. Even though that was the only time these two have matched up this season leading into the finals, they also wrestled a handful of times last season when Lankford was a freshman.

“There’s a bunch of emotions knowing that I’ll be wrestling in the finals,” Lankford said.

As a team, Jefferson is continuing its strong showing at the traditionals in search of its 10th consecutive state title.

Eight Dragons wrestlers won state semifinals matches and will all get the opportunity to wrestle for the title tonight. Last season,
Jefferson had two individual state champs.

“It’s awesome,” Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said. “This is a very exciting opportunity for these kids to win a state title.”

According to Jefferson 160-pounder Forrest Przybysz, the program’s record for state individual champions in one year is seven.
Kyle Springer (103), defending state champion Cason Thurmond (112), Isaac Kelly (119), Clay Richardson (125), Cain Finch
(140), Przybysz (160), Lucas Redd (189) and Zach Allen (215) all won semifinal matches for the Dragons.

Jefferson started the day with 11 wrestlers in the quarterfinals.

“We want to have as many state champions as ever,” Przybysz said. “We want people to stop and stare, and know we’re the hardest working team in the state.”

For Jackson County, Izzy Carillo-Garcia (140) and Charles Smothers (171) will wrestle for the state title tonight. White County’s Caleb Morris (125) and North Hall’s Shane Doster also advanced to today’s finals.

Today’s consolation semifinals begin at 10 a.m. The finals start at 5 p.m.
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