DULUTH — When the whistles blew to open the semifinals Friday at the Gwinnett Arena, the Jefferson High wrestling program wasted little time setting the tone for another state title run.
Jefferson sophomore Cason Thurmond (103 pounds) recorded a pin in the first period and was one of six Dragons to win in the semifinals of the traditional state championships.
"I’m very proud of our showing today and the way we wrestled," Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said.
Hall County’s two state finals qualifiers are Flowery Branch’s Danny Bell (119) and Riverside Military’s Colton Keig (285).
Bell won all three matches by a decision at the state championships, and will face Eastside’s Danny Gatt today for the Class AAA state title.
Bell’s biggest battle in the semifinals was when the score was tied 3-3 in the final period. Despite battling nerves, the Area 7-AAA title holder knew the match was still his to win.
"I had to get my head straight when it was tied because I was going to lose if I didn’t," Bell said. "I’m really excited to be in the finals."
For Jefferson, Cason Thurmond (103) Cutler Finch (125), Cam Thurmond (135), Jay Fowler (152), Zac Crosby (171) and Patrick Allen (215) all earned spots in today’s finals hoping to bring Jefferson its ninth consecutive traditional team title.
Jefferson’s Daniel Barber (112), Cain Finch (130), Forrest Przybyz (140), Ben Knight (145) and Zach Allen (189) all lost in the semifinals and will wrestle for third place.
"It’s a bitter-sweet feeling," Thurmond added. "I’m happy for the six that made the finals, but I wish all of our guys had made it."
With another state title, Fowler would leave Jefferson’s program as the fourth four-time state champion in the school’s illustrious wrestling history. Fowler’s opponent in the finals is Swainsboro’s Wade Farrow, who upset Buford’s Scottie Forrester, a defending state champion, in the semifinals.
"I’m so glad that my semifinal match is out of the way because I was so nervous," Fowler said. "I’m very excited for (today’s) match."
Thurmond, a two-time state champion, faces Toombs County’s Bryan Benton, a three-time state champion, in the finals today. This is a rematch of Cam Thurmond’s win last weekend in the Class AA east sectionals.
Crosby also earned a rematch of last weekend’s east sectional match he won against Toombs County’s Scottie Roach, who won his semifinal match in triple overtime.
White County’s Caleb Morris (103) remained undefeated on the season with his 5-0 win against his opponent from Ringgold in the semifinals. Morris faces Carrollton’s Brian Butler in the finals.
Buford’s Nick Voss (145) also earned spots in today’s finals.
From Lumpkin County, Jake McClure (171) and Brandon Roberts (189) both lost in the semifinals and will get the chance to earn third place finishes today.
Flowery Branch junior Brandon Dyer (130) is assured a top-six finish after his win in the consolation quarterfinals. The Falcons junior can finish as high as third overall with a pair of wins today. In the consolation quarterfinals, Dyer rallied from a 5-0 early deficit to Cody Goins of Heritage en route to a 13-9 decision. Falcons coach Shane Lancaster said Dyer’s win was all about conditioning as the match progressed.
"I’m tickled to death for Brandon," Lancaster said. "He’s got such a great work ethic. He’s the kind of kid you want to see do well."
White County’s Blake Limbaugh (160) pulled off the most dramatic win of the consolation bracket. He scored two points in the final seconds of his match against Eagle’s Landings Lamar Napper, securing an 8-7 decision. Limbaugh is looking to match his third-place finish from the Area 7-AAA championships.
Lumpkin County’s Wesley Forrester (119) is also in contention for a third-place finish. The Indians’ wrestler topped West Forsyth’s Garrett Tedone in the consolation quarterfinals. In AA, Buford’s Billy Anderson (135) won with a 14-5 decision against Michael Knight from Dade County.
Banks County’s Demetic Dempson (171) also was victorious in the consolation quarterfinals.
The consolation finals start at noon today. Finals are expected to begin at 5 p.m. at the Gwinnett Arena.