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High school wrestling: Chance to become champions
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Flowery Branch wrestlers R.J. Deyton, left, and Davante King practice in preparation for the upcoming state wrestling tournament Tuesday afternoon. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

State championships
Traditional format

When: Thursday-Saturday

Where: Macon Centreplex

Tickets: $7 Thursday, $10 Friday and Saturday (one-day only); $24 for tournament pass

More information: www.ghsa.net

State qualifiers
Class A
Carsen Mercer, 113 pounds, Towns County; Michael Patton, 126, Commerce; Johnny Mcabee, 132, Commerce; Joshua Westmoreland, 138, Commerce; Graeson Cochran, 160, Commerce; Trent Reddish, 170, Commerce; Cole Sweeney, 182, Commerce; Morgan Flint, 195, Commerce; Chance McClure, 220, Commerce.

Class AA
Chase Piperato, 106, Jefferson; Ben Kelly, 113, Jefferson; Chris Harvey, 120, Riverside Military; Kyle Kashuba, 120, Jefferson; Josh Harris, 126, Jefferson; Tanner Thurmond, 132, Jefferson; Tyler Marinelli, 138, Jefferson; Jack Dollar, 145, Jefferson; Jake Sherman, 152, Jefferson; Zach Rhymer, 160, Jefferson; Tradd Porter, 170, Jefferson; Jace McClosky, 182, Jefferson; Aaron Anderson, 220, Jefferson.

Class AAA
Darius Bunch, 106, Buford; Taylor Marett, 106, North Hall; Chris McCrackin, 106, Banks County; Jack Barber, 113, Buford; Michael Carew, 120, North Hall; Mason Patton, 126, Banks County; Brayden Hartley, 126, Buford; Tyler Goss, 126, North Hall; Francisco Hurtado, 132, Banks County; David Lush, 132, North Hall; Tony Fultz, 138, Banks County; Tyler Kratzer, 145, North Hall; Edward Vergara, 152, East Hall; Elliott Raiford, 152, West Hall; Wes Faulkner, 160, Banks County; Will Stonecypher, 160, White County; Corey Reece, 160, East Hall; Evan Kells, 170, Dawson County; Eli Smallwood, 170, Banks County; Chip Ness, 182, Buford; Gavin Brown, 182, Dawson County; Hayden Dilbeck, 182, Banks County; Matt Dilbeck, 195, Banks County; Andrew Posten, 195, White County; Keaton Toal, 195, Dawson County; Dylan Freeman, 220, White County.

Class AAAA
Tristin Duckworth, 106, Lumpkin County; Jose Reyes-Lavallee, 106, Chestatee; Bart Velasquez, 113, Chestatee, Greg Hilliard, 113, Lumpkin County; Micah Mihok, 120, Lumpkin County; Austin Donaldson, 120, Chestatee; Christian Zapatero, 126, Chestatee; Zack Cheshire, 132, Chestatee; Eddie Daniel, 152, Lumpkin County; Tommy McCormack, 160, Chestatee; Cody Humphries, 170, Chestatee; Jose Martinez, 195, Johnson; Grayson Entrekin, 195, Chestatee.

Class AAAAA
Ronny Couch, 113, Flowery Branch; Nolan Alsphach, 120, Flowery Branch; Ben Horton, 126, Flowery Branch; Zach Winter, 138, Flowery Branch; Brady Dyer, 145, Flowery Branch; Chastin Newman, 160, Gainesville; Grant Simonds, 182, Flowery Branch; Davante King, 195, Flowery Branch; R.J. Deyton, 285, Flowery Branch.

Class AAAAAA
Jeremy Trotman, 170, Habersham Central.

There’s no cakewalk for wrestlers on their way to the traditional state championship weekend in Macon, regardless of weight class or classification. Few of the wrestlers who survive the grind of eliminations to make it to this stage are as healthy as they were when the season started three months ago.

“It’s a long season, but this is what we go through it all for,” said Flowery Branch coach Shane Millwood, who has eight wrestlers seeking individual state titles starting Thursday at the Macon Centreplex. “We’ve got some guys that have wrestled 70 matches to get to this point.”

With a 16-man bracket, the state championship for Class AAAA, AAAAA and AAAAAA is three days long. In Class A, AA and AAA there’s an eight-man bracket in each of the 14 weight classes and wrestling opens on Friday in Macon.

The final day of the state meet opens with the consolation semifinals and finals, and the championship matches will begin in all classifications at 3 p.m. Saturday.

In Class AA, Jefferson has 12 wrestlers who will be in Macon as the team seeks its 13th straight individual state title. Flowery Branch, Chestatee,

Banks County and Commerce are all represented by eight wrestlers who made it through the area and sectional formats to earn a trip to state.

North Hall has five wrestlers at state, while Lumpkin County is represented by four.

In order to make it to the finals for wrestlers in Class AAAA-AAAAAA, it will take a wrestler three wins.

With a bracket half the size, wrestlers in the three smallest classifications need only two wins for a spot in the finals, but had to place higher at the state sectionals last weekend just to make it to state.

The top six wrestlers in each weight class, regardless of classification, place at the state meet.

“If you’re thinking about it in terms of running a marathon, the state sectionals was about the 20- or 22-mile mark,” Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow said. “The state championship is the finish line.”

The amount of matches that a wrestler faces at state is really nothing new.

The state champions in Class AAAA-AAAAAA will need four straight wins. That’s right in line with what most wrestlers face late in the season, but compounded when the weekends fall three in a row, such as the area, sectionals and traditional finals.

Last weekend, Chestatee’s Christian Zapatero (126 pounds) lost his first match at sectionals, then went on to win five straight for a third-place finish and spot in state.

Whitlow says carrying eight wrestlers to state has made practice fun all week. The War Eagles’ smallest wrestlers and state qualifiers Jose Reyes-Lavallee (106) and Bart Velasquez (113) have been able to keep each other sharp in practice, while Tommy McCormack (160) and Cody Humphries (170) have been able to work on moves together in preparation for Macon.

Whitlow says most of his guys have had at least 50 matches under their belt this season. In comparison, most NCAA wrestlers have about 30 matches over the course of the season.

“Everyone’s beat up by the time state rolls around,” Whitlow said.

For Flowery Branch, Millwood is seeking a top-six finish for his team, certainly attainable with eight wrestlers in the mix.

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