DULUTH - Flowery Branch wrestler Nick Lankford's back was up against the wall.
Trailing in his Class AAAA state championship match against Lambert's Michael Nelems, it appeared early on that he would follow second-place finishes at the area and sectional traditional competitions with an identical finish at state.
But, after a reversal and a stalling call revived his hopes in the match, Lankford was able to fight back for a 6-4 win at the Gwinnett Arena on Saturday, securing the second title of his high school career.
"He got the first two takedowns," Lankford said after the match. "I had to be a monster and fight back. I got on top of him, and it worked in my favor."
Lankford was the lone champion from Hall County.
After finishing as the runner-up in the most recent competition, Lankford was happy to finally get over the hump for the win.
"It sucks finishing in second, knowing that you're right there," he said. "But I just kept battling. It was tough, man."
Falcons coach Shane Millwood noted the difficulty in their sectional, saying that was a factor in preparing his wrestler for the state competition.
"We had a tough tournament at sectionals," he said. "I think it's the best sectional in the state."
Millwood added that he was worried after Nelems scored the first two takedowns of the match, but that he knew Lankford had a strong game plan going in.
"You always want that first takedown, but Nick didn't get it," he said. "But Nick got on top, and he started doing what he does best. He had a strong game plan going in.
"You can't complain about first place."
Both Lankford and Millwood noted the importance of the stalling call in turning around the match.
"That was big," Millwood said. "But, we'll take what we can get."
Lankford will attend Newberry College on a wrestling scholarship in the fall.
JEFFERSON TAKES TEAM, TWO INDIVIDUAL TITLES: For the 12th year in a row, the Dragons clinched the Class AA state traditionals title, sending nine wrestlers to the finals on Saturday.
"Yeah, we won again," Dragons coach Doug Thurmond said. "And no, it doesn't get old."
It appeared early on that Jefferson would have difficulty turning many into state champions, but after dropping matches in the 106- and 113-pound classes, Tyler Marinelli took home a title in the 126.
"I never imagined I'd be here," Marinelli said after his win. "I'm just amazed that I actually did it."
Marinelli recorded the win on a takedown just two seconds into an overtime period. He did not wrestle a year ago, and this was his first state championship.
Thurmond said that the title couldn't have gone to a better kid.
"It was sweet," he said. "Tyler's a great kid. He's soft-spoken, and a nice kid. He's a great competitor. He lulls you to sleep."
Also taking home a title for Jefferson was 182-pounder Forrest Przybysz, who won it for the third time.
Despite only taking two of the nine matches, Thurmond said he was proud of the way his wrestlers competed.
"It's bittersweet, because you want them all to win," he said. "But nine is pretty dang good. If you had told me before the tournament that we'd send nine to the finals, I'd be overjoyed. And I am overjoyed."
AROUND THE AREA: In Class A, Commerce won two of the three finals it participated in. Cody Legg (113) and Chance McClure (220) each took home titles.
Riverside Military took home the second-best finish in Hall County with 120-pounder Chris Harvey taking third place. It added a fourth-place finish from Nick Thompson (138).
Buford secured a Class AA individual title with a 9-2 win by 170-pounder Chip Ness, the second of his career.
In Class AAA, North Hall's Andy Voss (132) took fourth place, and Tyler Kratzer (138) and Cam Howell (220) both finished in fifth.
Chestatee's Dylan Brock (195) also finished in fifth.