"I coached at Parkview for 22 years and won two state duals championships, and this is right up there with those," Stromie said of the Wolverines state-clinching finish. "I’m just so happy for the kids, because I want them to be able to experience those things."
As expected, top-ranked Gilmer cruised to its third consecutive area duals title, defeating Lumpkin County 54-12 before picking up 10 pins in the finals victory over West Forsyth. The defending duals state champions will represent Area 7-AAA as the top seed in next weekend’s state duals in Macon. They’ll be joined by the Wolverines, who entered the area tournament as the No. 6 seed.
No. 4 seed Lumpkin County, needing a win over Pickens in the finals of the losers’ bracket to force a challenge match against West Forsyth for second place, was sent home heartbroken when the Dragons emerged with a 36-31 win.
The Indians won four of the final five matches, but after falling behind 30-9, their fate was sealed when Andy Rowlan (119) scored a pin for the Dragons and put the match out of reach.
And Stromie, for one, couldn’t have been happier.
Because the Wolverines had already defeated Pickens earlier Saturday, the Dragons’ win over Lumpkin County eliminated the need for a challenge match and clinched the Wolverines’ place in the state duals.
"We knew we had a chance if the brackets fell the right way," Stromie said. "We don’t match up very well against Lumpkin, but earlier this season we had lost to Flowery Branch on the last match of the duals, White County on the last match of the duals and Pickens on the last match of the duals. So we knew we had a chance against them.
"We were just hoping that we would be away from Lumpkin in the brackets."
And that’s exactly the way it turned out.
The Wolverines, whose roster is devoid of seniors and features numerous freshmen, advanced to the finals with a 37-34 win over No. 2 seed Pickens to start Saturday’s action. Robert Kudela (103 pounds), Tyler Lott (125), Evan Burchette (130), Tyler Everton (135) and Dane Magnussen (285) all notched pins to lead West Forsyth, while Ross Anderskow (145) and Matthew Hatcher also contributed wins for the Wolverines.
Lumpkin County, meanwhile, met White County after falling in their first match to Gilmer.
The Warriors trailed by just a point, 27-26, with three matches remaining, but Lumpkin County’s James Snipes (112), Todd Berry (119) and Victor Guerrero (125) finished off White County with three consecutive pins.
In the finals, Gilmer left no room for doubt, putting on what coach Sam Snider called their most dominating performance in an area duals final. The Bobcats raced to a 44-0 lead, including six pins in the first eight matches, before Magnussen scored West Forsyth’s only points with a win on decision in overtime.
After a brief celebration with their home fans Saturday, the Bobcats were already looking ahead to next weekend in Macon.
"We’ve just go to continue to peak," Snider said. "We’re probably going to see (No. 2) Cass in the semis, so we’ve got to win the matches we’re supposed to win and not give up any pins."