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Local wrestlers reflect on accomplishments at last week's state tournament
Chestatee's Matthew McClellan won 145 pound state championship in Class AAAA
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Chestatee's Matthew McClellan won the Class AAAA state wrestling championship last weekend in Macon. - photo by Erin O. Smith

A chance for glory is something that many wrestlers have at the beginning of the season, but only a few actually experience glory at the state tournament.

Among of those wrestlers was Chestatee’s senior Matthew McClellan, who placed first in the Class AAAA state championships Feb. 9-11 at the Macon Centreplex in Macon. After finishing third as a sophomore and fifth as a junior, he finally achieved his ultimate goal while becoming the first War Eagle to ever place at state three times, claiming a state championship at 145 pounds.

“It feels pretty cool,” McClelland said. “A lot of good wrestlers have wrestled at Chestatee. It feels good to be considered as one of the better ones.”

McClellan won his first state match 5-0, beating a Jefferson wrestler 6-3. But in the semifinal, round his opponent gave him some trouble.

He was losing 5-1 at the end of the first period but rallied from behind to score five straight points in the second period, earning a spot in the championship match.

McClellan said his nerves got to him before the state championship match against Blake Beasley of West Laurens. He was reflecting on his match with Beasley from earlier this season, when he lost 10-7.

It was a different story in the state championship match, though.

Up 4-1 with 20 seconds left in the match, McClellan found himself on top of Beasley. The senior looked up and saw his family, principal and coach cheering for him as he held on to win the state championship match.

“It felt like a relief. It felt like a huge weight was taken off of my shoulders,” McClellan said. “I worked really hard for the past four years to get this moment.”

Jackson County’s Kyle Graham had the same feeling as McClellan when he won the Class AAA state championship.

“It felt great to be on top of that podium in front of the Coliseum,” said Graham. “It is something that I will never forget.”

His fellow Panther, Chandler Saine, also won state. Jackson County’s wrestling program had Ben Gilbreath place third, Anthony Wingfield place fourth and Jacob Love place sixth.

Gainesville’s Malique Johnson placed fourth in Class AAAAAA. Johnson is proud of what he has accomplished last weekend but plans on to keep on improving.

“I just accomplished the goal that I wanted to accomplish that I set out for myself at the beginning of the season,” Johnson said. “The next step is to win state next year.”

McClellan plans on competing collegiately, and he is considering Truett-McConnell College.

Graham also plans on taking his talent to the college level and has received offers from Emmanuel College and Belmont Abbey College.

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