JEFFERSON — There really wasn’t much doubt that Jefferson would win another area dual wrestling title Saturday. The only question was how.
The Dragons, who have won an area and state dual championship every year the format has existed in Georgia, lost a combined total of only three individual matches Friday and Saturday en route to another Area 8-AA title.
Jefferson will now set its sights on the Class AA state dual tournament next weekend, Jan. 13-14, at the Centreplex in Macon. The Dragons will be seeking their 11th straight state duals championship.
“We got some good wins (Friday) and today, but that’s just one step,” Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said. “It’s a good step of where we want to be for next week, but we’ve got to be ready for next week.”
Jefferson received a first-round bye Friday before opening with an 80-0 win over Dawson County. That set up a meeting with rival Jackson County.
The Panthers got through the first four matches without being pinned and were only pinned a total six times, but their lone score came on Brian Burnett’s win at 145, as Jefferson cruised to a 62-3 victory.
“Jefferson’s a tough team,” Jackson County coach Jason Powers said. “They’ve proved that on a state and on a national level, but we’re also tough. We just didn’t put enough points on the scoreboard, but our individuals wrestled tough.”
Jefferson clinched the championship with a 57-6 win over No. 2 seed Elbert County. The match held tight at the beginning, with Isaac Kelly squeaking out a 15-13 win. Following a loss, the Dragons picked up pins in the next three matches to take a commanding 27-3 lead.
“We knew they were going to be tough,” Thurmond said of Elbert County. “They have several state champions in the lineup, and some of our guys felt like they had something to prove in their individual matches.”
One of those guys was Kelly, a senior who lost in the 119 finals of the traditional state tournament last year to Elbert’s Braxton Owens. Kelly, who won a state title at 119 his sophomore season, outlasted Owens Saturday in the dual finals. Both wrestlers now compete at 132.
“We gave him the option not to wrestle and to bump him around a little, but he wanted to wrestle there and ended up winning, so that was a bright point,” Thurmond said of Kelly’s showing.
After the loss to Jefferson, Jackson County rebounded in the consolation bracket with a win over East Hall, beating the Vikings 58-22. Burnett, Conner Andreasen, Daivon Ledford, Lane Robertson and J.T. Wood all recorded pins in the match.
The Panthers had to settle for fourth place after suffering a loss to Banks County for the second year in a row in the area dual tournament. Jackson County fell just short of the two-team cut for the state duals last season with a loss to the Leopards.
The 42-33 win for Banks County put the Leopards in third, but with a loss to Elbert County earlier in the tournament, the they missed the cut, with the Blue Devils taking the second spot.