CANTON— Some people may have counted out Gilmer High’s wrestling program this season when it failed to capture the area duals title, but Bobcats coach Sam Snider didn’t.
In a season when everyone says that Area 7-AAA is at its best, so was Gimer as it captured its fifth consecutive Area 7-AAA traditionals title Saturday at Creekview High.
"I’m just as proud as I can be right now," Snider said.
In team points, Gilmer finished first with 197. Area 7-AAA duals champion West Forsyth placed second (172.5) and White County placed third (135.5).
The Bobcats won the title after a top-six finish at the area duals meet last month.
Snider says that experience with such a young program made all the difference. The Bobcats won the Area 7-AAA traditional title with a total team effort placing 13 in the top five overall. That’s pretty impressive considering the fact that Gilmer only had four returning starters from the 2008 Class AAA traditional state champions and has no seniors on this year’s roster.
"Our team has worked so hard," Snider added. "This just goes to show how having good competition makes you better."
The Bobcats qualified nine wrestlers for the state sectionals, including area champions Cody Bollinger (140 pounds) and Christian Barnes (160). Gilmer’s area runners up, both freshmen, were at 103 and 135.
The Wolverines earned second place thanks to a solid effort in the finals, winning four of their five matches. This season, West Forsyth qualified nine wrestlers from the area tournament, which is up from just three that qualified for state last season. Evan Burchette (130), Tyler Everton (145), Jeff Sayer (215) and defending state champion Dane Magnussen (285) all won individual Area 7-AAA titles.
"This was a good, tough tournament," West Forsyth coach Dennis Stromie said. "I felt like we wrestled much better (Saturday) than on Friday."
White County was led in the finals by 103 winner Caleb Morris (39-0 this season). The Warriors also had a gutsy third place effort from Blake Limbaugh (160) who won all three matches Saturday after losing in the quarterfinals to Flowery Branch’s Cory Orr on Friday.
John Young (189) and Tyler Hamilton (285) both finished in second place for the Warriors.
"We’re such a young program," White County coach Tim Bragg said. "We’ll take this third place finish.
"This was a great tournament this weekend."
Flowery Branch finished fourth (133) and qualified seven wrestlers for the Class AAA area sectionals behind a pair of first place and a pair of second place finishes.
"I’m very pleased with how we did this weekend," Falcons coach Shane Lancaster said. "We’ve never had a showing like this at an area meet since Flowery Branch opened."
Danny Bell (119) and Ben Yu (152) will represent the Falcons as Area 7-AAA champions at the sectionals next weekend at Eagle’s Landing High in Stockbridge.
Zach Cannon (112) and Brandon Dyer (130) finished in second place for Flowery Branch.
According to Lancaster, Dyer’s appearance in the finals was especially impressive. The Hall County champion had to defeat Chestatee’s Conner Comeaux in the semifinals. Comeaux won the first two matches between the two handily earlier in the season.
Chris Burnett (135), Jake McClure (171) and Brandon Roberts (189) all won area titles from Lumpkin County.
Other area champions included Creekview’s Grant Eddy (112) and Pickens’ Andy Rowland (125) also emerged as an area champion.
The Class AAA state sectionals are next weekend at Eagle’s Landing High in Stockbridge. The traditional state championships are Feb. 19-21 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.