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Banks County: Mason Patton (103), fifth.
Commerce: Josh Westmoreland (119), sixth; Cole Ledford (130), sixth; Casey Drinkard (135), third; Jon Cash (145), fourth; Nick Arostegui (152), first; Terrance Martin (160), second; Tyler Austin (171), second; Josh Streetman (189), second, Serguio Rojas (285), fourth.
Flowery Branch: Nick Lankford (103), state champion; Danny Bell (112), third.
Jackson County: Izzy Carrillo-Garcia (140), second; Charles Smothers (171), second; Ryan Howe (189), third.
Jefferson: Kyle Springer (103), state champion; Cason Thurmond (112), state champion; Isaac Kelly (119), state champion; Clay Richardson (125), second; Cain Finch (140), state champion; Wayne Elliot (145), third; Forrest Przybysz (160), first; Lucas Redd (189), state champion; Zach Allen (215), state champion.
Lumpkin County: Jake McClure (189), fourth.
North Hall: Shane Doster (152), fourth.
West Hall: Tanner Yates (125), fifth.
White County: Caleb Morris (125), state champion; Tyler Hamilton (285), fourth.
DULUTH — Amazing.
That was the word that repeatedly came out of the mouth of Flowery Branch’s Nick Lankford after winning the Class AAA state wrestling title at 103 pounds Saturday at the Gwinnett Arena.
Lankford secured the state championship late in the third period against Gilmer’s Justin Karr, the Area 7-AAA champion. Tied at 4-4 in the third period, the Falcons’ newest state champion earned the state title with two points on a reverse. With the win, Flowery Branch has individual state champions for two consecutive seasons (Danny Bell in 2009).
“This just feels amazing,” Lankford said. “I’ve never won against him before, and it just feels amazing to do it here in the state finals.”
“I can’t describe how proud we are of Nick,” Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said. “He worked so hard for what he’s accomplished.”
The state championship was especially sweet for Lankford since it was his first win in six career attempts against Karr. Earlier this month, the two paired up in the finals at the area championships, which Karr came away with a 9-5 victory.
This time, Lankford vowed not to make the same mistakes as last time, such as giving up avoidable back points and letting his head get wrapped to his knees.
Knowing that a rematch against Karr at the state meet was eminent, Lankford watched the video of their match at area until he knew it by heart and every one of the challenger’s tendencies.
Lankford, a sophomore, says studying the film was the deciding factor in the biggest match of his career to this point. In fact, he says the match started to play out almost identical through the first two periods, which he trailed 4-2 heading into the final period.
He says the difference came when he was able to keep his knees low and keep his balance, instead of getting wrapped up and allowing points.
“Winning a state title is just the best feeling in my life,” Lankford said.
Meanwhile, Class AA’s Jefferson wrapped up its 10th consecutive team title in the traditionals, after winning its ninth straight state title in the duals earlier in the season.
This year, the Dragons were expecting a battle against Henry County, but it turned out to be a runaway victory with the Dragons putting eight in the championship round and seven winning their state title matches, which ties a school record.
Cason Thurmond (112), a junior, was the headliner for Jefferson with his third individual state title in the first weight class contested in the finals. Kyle Springer (103), Isaac Kelly (119), Cain Finch (140), Forrest Przybysz (160) Lucas Redd (189) and Zach Allen (215) all emerged as state champions for the Dragons. They also scored with a second place finish from Clay Richardson (125) and third from Wayne Elliot (145).
Jefferson won the team title with 270 points, Henry County finished second (175) and Lovett was third (168.5).
“Our team has worked so hard,” Thurmond said. “We had our heads and right and came out ready to wrestle.
“It’s a great feeling to have so many state champions.”
White County also landed a state champion with Caleb Morris at 125. Last season, Morris was a state runner-up at 103.
Morris won the state title in the third period with an escape after starting on the bottom. Morris trailed 4-2 at the start of the third period.
“I just had to push the pace to win,” Morris said. “That was a great wrestler I faced in the finals.”
In Class A, Commerce was third overall with 180 points. Nick Arostegui (152) was the Tigers’ only individual state champion, but Commerce also earned points with three state runner-ups. In Class AAA, Jackson County finished sixth overall with 101.5 points. Izzy Carrillo-Garcia (140) and Charles Smothers (171) both finished as state runner-ups for the Panthers.