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High school wrestling: Flowery Branch defends crown
North Hall High’s John Anderson is flipped by Gainesville High’s Armando Media in the 103-pound match on day two of the Hall County wrestling championships at East Hall High School Saturday. Medina won the match. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
Undefeated after four rounds in the duals portion of the Hall County Championships on Saturday, Flowery Branch needed a win over Chestatee to secure its second straight team title.

With the score tied 6-6, the Falcons’ 152-pound Hall County individual champion Ben Yu won by pin, beginning a stretch in which Flowery Branch won six of the next seven matches to beat Chestatee 50-13 and defend their Hall County team championship.

"It feels really good," said Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster of his team’s win. "We had a tough row to hoe this year. We had tough matches, so it feels great to know the kids pulled through."

The performance of Flowery Branch heavyweight Jonathan Martinez was a good example.

With the Falcons up only eight points at 21-13, Martinez stepped onto the mat against Blake Forrester, who had previously pinned Martinez three times in relatively quick fashion, according to Lancaster.

With the score tied at five, and the Flowery Branch faithful shouting Martinez’s nickname — "Moonpie" — in unison, the 285-pound wrestler came through, pinning Forrester and starting a string of four straight Flowery Branch pins to end the match.

"He’s been struggling," Lancaster said. "He really turned that corner and we’re really proud of him this tournament.

"To come back against someone who’s consistently pinned him and then pin him for a big win today, that was huge for us."

The Falcons finished the duals undefeated at 6-0, beating East Hall to end the day.

"This type of tournament is all about conditioning," Lancaster said, "and trying to get the mental toughness.

"We’ve basically been preaching to the kids to let them know to constantly believe in themselves, never doubt themselves and just push through no matter how much they’re down."

While Flowery Branch finished the day as the clear No. 1, second place would have to be decided on matches won due to a three-way tie between Chestatee, North Hall and West Hall, who each finished 4-2 in the tournament.

With Chestatee notching 16 wins against North Hall and West Hall, West Hall getting 14 against Chestatee and North Hall and North Hall getting 12; the War Eagles finished as the second-best team in Hall County.

"It shouldn’t have come down to that (most matches won), but it did," Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow said. "It was a good tournament and my guys are further along that I thought they would be.

"It’s a little disappointing (not to win), but we’re proud of their effort."

Whitlow pointed out Ed Villeda (189) as his team’s standout performer in the tournament.

"He did a great job for us," Whitlow said. "He was Hall County champion, the only one we had. I don’t think he lost a match here and that helped us out a lot.

"I’ve got to hand it to Flowery Branch and West Hall. (West Hall coach) Eric (Radich) and Shane (Lancaster) have been there for a while and their programs are coming up," Whitlow said. "That’s what it’s going to take for the county to get better. We’re just trying to do what they’re doing."

For West Hall coach Eric Radich, whose team has only two seniors, placing was less important than his young squad gaining the experience of tournament conditions.

"To my team this is about mat experience," he said. "Duals are a completely different animal from a traditionals tournament. So they start to learn how momentum works and what you have to do and we have a tough area, so for us it’s just getting better every week."

North Hall coach Jay Hargis, whose team was without its lone starting senior, ended up in fourth place.

"We’re a very young team," he said, "and to be right in the running for second is good for our guys.

"I was very pleased because we showed a lot of growth. We’ve got to get tougher and get at it a little bit harder, but that’s hopefully what will happen in the last part of the season."

East Hall (2-4) finished fifth, Gainesville (1-5) sixth and Johnson (0-6) seventh.

Danny Bell (119) of Flowery Branch won the Lower Weight Most Outstanding Wrestler and North Hall’s Cody McClain (215) won the Upper Weight Outstanding Wrestler. Both wrestlers went undefeated in the tournament and won a Hall County title in their respective weight classes.

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