MACON — Moving up to Class AA had little effect on the Jefferson Dragons, who won their eighth consecutive GHSA State Duals title following a dominating 48-19 win over Lovett in their championship match Saturday at the Macon Centerplex.
With some of the Dragons, ranked No. 1 the entire season, wearing t-shirts with bullseyes on the backs, all opponents came up shooting blanks as the Dragons proved why they’ve been the top target over the years.
"The guys came out real fired up," Dragons coach Doug Thurmond said. "Lovett’s always a class act and you know when you wrestle them you’re going to be wrestling a tough team."
Lovett, a team loaded with nine seniors, went undefeated in its opening rounds before feeling the heat from the Dragons.
"Our guys really got after it against a tough team," Thurmond said. "I was real proud of them because they did a wonderful job."
The Dragons defeated the No. 10 (Blessed Trinity), No. 5 (Sonoraville) and No. 2 (Lovett) teams in Class AA on their way to the title.
The Dragons jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the championship match thanks to a decision in favor of Cam Thurmond at 135 pounds, followed by a Wayne Elliot (140) pin with 52 seconds left in the first period of his match.
An excited Elliott said the Dragons met one of their goals with the win. He added that winning an eighth consecutive state duals title was almost surreal.
"It was awesomet," Elliot said. "After I saw Cam get his decision, I was like ‘we need to step it up.’ We did, and it just kept rolling from there and we accomplished what we came here to do. This is just a dream, just to help win an eighth title. I can’t even explain it."
The Dragons picked up pins in four out of the next eight matches as their lead grew to 36-13.
Zac Crosby was able to get his pin despite a busted lip, following a decision for Virgil Appleby (160).
Jay Fowler (152) and Patrick Allen (215) added pins during this stretch, while Cason Thurmond (112) scored points on a decision along with Cutler Finch (125). Cutler’s brother Cane Finch (130) capped off the Dragons championship with a pin in the final match, but the highlight of the night was Isaac Kelly (103), who needed only 24 seconds to finish off his opponent.
"I was so crunk you know, I had to do it for the team," Kelly said. "I wanted to get the pin so we could get the score up and show everyone what Jefferson is made of. We thought it was going to be closer than it was, but we were ready to win another state championship and we did."
An eighth straight title left some fans and officials wondering if the Dragons are the best overall wrestling team in the state, after they quieted anyone who doubted they’d win a title after making the jump to Class AA.
"There were a lot of people who said, ‘well when they move up somebody will beat them,’" said Pete Frittz, state representative of the Georgia National High School Coaches Association. "They moved up and they still dominate. It’s great for coach Thurmond and his coaching staff and the Jefferson community. Some people say it’s the only show in town and it may be, but what a show it is.
"They were always very competitive with coach (Jack) Keen, but when coach Thurmond moved over, they really turned it on. They added a kids program which they didn’t have, and now year after year a new group comes along and they’re tough to beat."
Jackson County falls short in state title bid
MACON – The Jackson County wrestling team got off to a solid start this past weekend in the Class AAA State Duals at the Macon Centerplex, but failed to capture a Top-3 finish.
The Panthers knocked off Westover in the opening round (46-21), before falling to top-seeded Lafeyette in the second round (51-17).
Facing elimination, the Panthers got back on track with back-to-back wins over LaGrange, before being knocked out of the tournament by Heritage (41-25).
Despite the loss, the Panthers earned their first top-10 finish under coach Jason Powers at the state duals after accomplishing the feat at the individual level the previous two seasons.
"A loss is a loss, but we took a shot and made it this far," Powers said. "We took some chances this year and it’s our first time finishing in the top eight overall, so it’s not a bad finish."
Against Heritage the Panthers trailed 13-0 after the opening three matches in which Heritage picked up a major decision, a decision and a pin.
The Panthers answered with a pin of their own by Cole Meadors in the 135-pound class and a major decision by Izzy Carrillo-Garcia (140), cutting the lead to 13-10.
The match began to slip away for the Panthers over the course of the next three weight classes, as the Heritage lead grew to 18 points, before Jamari Davis picked up a decision.
Ryan Howe, who wrestled at 215 instead of his usual 189 and Ryan Shekey (112) each won their match by pin for the Panthers, but it wasn’t enough as Heritage advanced.
"Ryan (Howe) is my bump man," Powers said. "I can bump him wherever I need him to go and I know he’s going to come up with six (points). He’s an excellent wrestler and extremely tough at 189 or 215."
With the state duals wrapped up, Powers said the Panthers will now focus on possibly capturing a few individual state titles.
"Now it’s all about each wrestler going back and looking at their individual game," Powers said. "We’re still going to be focused on the team, but now it’s taking the individuals that are going to shine and making sure they’re polished so they can be at the top."