State Duals Championships
Who: Jefferson High
Where: Macon Centreplex
Cost: $10 day/$17 tournament pass
First round: noon Friday vs. Fitzgerald
Other local teams at state: Class A, Commerce; Class AA, Banks County; Class AAA, Jackson County
JEFFERSON — With a non-threatening demeanor and a youthful face, Cutler Finch knows he can lull an opponent into a false sense of security. He just chalks that up to another advantage once he hits the mat.
“I take pleasure in the irony of (being) someone who tries to look so calm and easy-going,” Finch, a senior, said. “I’m not what people expect from someone who is going to try and pin them in the first round.”
And that self-assessment works just fine for his wrestling coach at Jefferson, Doug Thurmond. The Dragons coach knows that Finch (who wrestles at 138 pounds) is one of the many reasons that Class AA’s top-ranked Dragons’ proud wrestling tradition has been sustained. Starting today at the Macon Centreplex, they begin the quest for a ninth consecutive duals state title.
Thurmond said that Finch, a back-to-back state runner-up in the traditionals, is a little more physically imposing than he might let on at first.
“Cutler is 138 pounds of muscle,” Thurmond said. “He’s got a washboard stomach, big shoulders and big, strong legs. He’s one of the most intimidating wrestlers you’re going to see in his weight class.”
So far, Finch’s senior season has gone according to plan. With a 31-4 record, he’s placed first in every individual tournament, and his only four losses came in dual tournaments against Class AAAA and Class AAAAA competition. Now his goal is to march out of the state duals without letting the opposition score any points against the Dragons.
“I really don’t feel like there’s a significant threat of losing,” Finch said. “We want to dominate at the state duals.”
Not only does Finch like to bring a confident approach to the mat, he also makes it clear that he is very deliberate in all of his actions. Even before speaking, Finch takes time to make sure the words come out right the first time. Thurmond says that reflects his style on the mat, where Finch tries to establish a mental edge in every match.
“Cutler is a thinker,” Thurmond said. “He’s going to go through what he needs to do in his head before he acts.”
From the beginning, Finch was bred to be a wrestler at Jefferson High. His father, Tim Finch, was a state champ for the Dragons and helped Thurmond get the program’s youth USA Wrestling program off the ground years ago.
Cutler was eager to get on the mat as young as age 5, and his father served as his coach through the eighth grade, when the time came to transition into the high school program.
“My dad really helped me develop my work ethic in wrestling,” said Finch. “I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”
Even with a lengthy wrestling background, Finch said that last summer he really figured out what it takes to be a championship wrestler. He stopped being content with battling back late in order to come away with a win. Instead, he’s now the aggressor from the first whistle.
He said the biggest improvements came in terms of his footwork and intensity.
“I’m a different wrestler this season,” Finch said. “I’m going out there and trying to impose my will.”
“Cutler’s always had it as a wrestler, he just had to realize he had it,” Thurmond said. “Cutler is a very coachable, well-mannered kid.”
And Finch isn’t the last link in his family to wrestle for the Dragons. His younger brother Cain, a sophomore wrestling at 140 pounds, might have even more potential in the long term, Cutler says.
Naturally, the Dragons (23-1 this season) are going to have a massive bull’s-eye on their backs this weekend with every school wanting to be the one that knocks off the program that won 17 state titles (eight in duals, nine in traditionals) from 2000-2009.
Thurmond says the matches against much larger schools earlier in the season was designed to have the Dragons ready to go against the other top-tier programs in Class AA, including Lovett, Sonoraville and Henry County.
“The key to the state duals is that every match counts,” Thurmond said. “And we feel like we have a group of back-ups that can wrestle, too.”