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Flowery Branch's Lankford moves into finals at state wrestling championship
Jefferson has nine in finals, hefty team-points lead in Class AA
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State finals
Local qualifiers

Class A
Cody Legg, Commerce (113), Trent Reddish, Commerce (152), Chance McClure, Commerce (220)

Class AA
Chase Piperato, Jefferson (106), Kyle Kashuba, Jefferson (113), Zach Moore, Jackson County (120), Tyler Marinelli, Jefferson (126), Isaac Kelly, Jefferson (132), Clay Richardson, Jefferson (138), Jack Dollar, Jefferson (145), Cain Finch, Jefferson (152), Chip Ness, Buford (170), Forrest Przybysz, Jefferson (182), Aaron Anderson, Jefferson (220)

Class AAAA
Nick Lankford, Flowery Branch (132), Coleman Cunningham, Habersham Central (145)


DULUTH - Nothing has come easy for Flowery Branch's Nick Lankford in his pursuit of another wrestling state title, but none of that matters now. Lankford, a 2010 state champion at 103 pounds, will wrestle tonight for the Class AAAA traditional state title at 132 at the Gwinnett Arena.

"It feels great to know I'm wrestling for another state title," Lankford said. "I'm confident that I can get it done.

"I just have to go out and wrestle a smart match."

The Falcons senior battled persistent sickness for about a three-week span leading into the state championships, including last weekend during his runner-up finish in the East state sectionals at Loganville.

However, Lankford (61-4 on the season) showed he was ready to try to win it all this weekend.

With past knowledge of how mentally grueling and physically challenging wrestling at state can be, Lankford won tight matches in both the quarterfinals and semifinals Friday in Duluth to qualify for the finals.

Just as importantly, Lankford is healthy.

"I feel great now," Lankford said.

Lankford also knows that with the large crowd that will be on hand for the finals at the 13,000-seat area, it takes tunnel vision to block out all the distractions.

"All the fame and lights, you just have to drown that out," Lankford said.

In the semifinals, Lankford went to his trademark move, the Peterson Roll, to score on an escape against Ryan Cole of Paulding County for a 4-2 decision in his favor.

Lankford also won a close match in the quarterfinals, 3-2, against Ulises Ponce of Rockdale County.

In the finals, Lankford will face Michael Nelems of Lambert. The two have not faced this season.

"The key (tonight) is just to wrestle smart," Lankford said.

This run at state has been especially sweet for Lankford. In 2011, Lankford was put out in the first round in a match that went to triple overtime.

He's intent on going out on top in his final high school wrestling match tonight.

In Class AA, Jefferson is sitting in a great position to win its 12th consecutive state title in the traditionals.

The Dragons have nine grapplers that are going tonight for a state title and another two wrestlers who can score points in the consolation bracket and third-place matches today.

After Day 2, Jefferson (216 points) holds a commanding lead in the chase for the team title ahead of Morgan County (69.5).

"I'm so proud of our guys," Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said. "So far, so good."

Jefferson's Clay Richardson (138) has qualified for the finals, despite having mononucleosis and not receiving the green light to wrestle again until the Area 8-AA championships two weeks ago.

Also in the finals for the Dragons are Chase Piperato (106), Kyle Kashuba (113), Tyler Marinelli (126), Isaac Kelly (132), Jack Dollar (145), Cain Finch (152), Forrest Przybysz (182) and Aaron Anderson (220).


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