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Gilmer back on top at 7-AAA duals
West Forsyth’s Tyler Everton applies a headlock to Lumpkin County’s Lee Cagle in the 160-pound weight class of the Area 7-AAA Duals semifinal Monday at West Forsyth High School in Cumming. - photo by Jared Putnam
CUMMING — During last year’s Area 7-AAA dual meet, the Gilmer Bobcats never got an opportunity to wrestle against West Forsyth.

A loss to Lumpkin County in the semifinals prevented the Bobcats from winning their third straight area duals title and paved the way for the Wolverines to win their first.

On Monday in Cumming, the Bobcats returned to the top.

Gilmer won four out of the first five matches in the championship round against West Forsyth, which was enough to hold off a Wolverines’ comeback and give them a 34-21 win and the area title.

“(West Forsyth) coach (Dennis) Stromie and I are good Christian brothers, and we always want the best for each other,” Gilmer coach Sam Snider said.  “Except of course when we’re competing against each other.”

After opening the championship match with a pin, the Bobcats increased their lead to 16-3 by getting three straight wins by decision. But West Forsyth got a late win by its heavyweight, and then the littlest Wolverines came up big.

Cody Westray (103 pounds), Robbie Kydela (112) and Garrett Tedone (119) reeled off three consecutive wins and that 13-point lead was suddenly one.

Still, Snider remained confident.

“We won some early matches that were unexpected,” he said. “I knew if we made it past 130 (pounds) with a lead, we’d be in good shape.”

Despite a pin at 125 by Zach Horton and a decision win at 130 by Dayuhl Becker, the Bobcats still couldn’t put West Forsyth away, and when 135-pound Evan Burchette pinned his opponent, Gilmer’s lead was just four.

With his 145-pound state runner-up two matches away, Snider remained calm and knew his Bobcats were in control. What he didn’t know was that sophomore Santos Sanchez was going to rally from an 8-2 deficit to win 10-8 and clinch the title for Gilmer.
“It’s beautiful to have a sophomore out there get a win and our state runner-up not even have to wrestle,” said Snider, whose program has won its fifth area duals title.

West Forsyth’s night didn’t end there as the Wolverines were forced to wrestle White County for second place. The Warriors earned that opportunity by defeating Lumpkin County 43-21. Since White County and West Forsyth hadn’t wrestled yet, by rule, the two took to the mat to determine a true runner-up.

That title went to the Wolverines, who defeated White County 36-27.

Despite the loss and missed opportunity to reach the state meet, White County coach Tim Bragg was proud of the way his team rebounded from a 59-6 loss to Gilmer in the semifinals.

“We were estatic,” Bragg said of the semifinals win. “We thought we’d be able to compete with West Forsyth.”

The Warriors did, and after Alexander Jenkins pinned his opponent, White County trailed by just two points.

But those were the last points White County received until it got six points for a forfeit with the match decided.

“We just couldn’t keep it going,” Bragg said. “There’s so many highs and lows, but it’s a fun ride.”

White County’s advancement to the second-place match was especially frustrating for Flowery Branch, which lost to the Warriors by six points earlier in the day and prevented the Falcons from reaching the semifinals.

“It was a very heartbreaking, frustrating loss to White County,” said Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster, whose Falcons finished fifth. “I’m disappointed that we’re not going to state, but finishing fifth in this area is an accomplishment.”

The Falcons were the top finishers among Hall County participants with West Hall and North Hall both losing in the loser’s consolation bracket.

“I think the county had a good showing,” said North Hall coach Jay Hargis, whose team lost by one point to Creekview in the match preceding the fifth-place match. “I thought we could beat Creekview, but we lost a good opportunity to win.”
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