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Raiford, Carew among state wrestling champs; Commerce, Jefferson roll to team titles
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Traditional state tournament

Top-4 finishers

At Macon Centreplex




Class A: 1. Casey Burchett (Commerce)

Class A: 1. Dawson Bates (Jefferson)


Class A: 1. Jacob Brewer (Commerce)

Class AAA: 1. Mitchell McGhee (Jefferson), 2. Logan Brown (Lumpkin County)

Class AAAAAA: 3. Andrew Burpee (Habersham Central)


Class A: 1. Dalton Flint (Commerce)

Class AAA: 1. Ben Kelly (Jefferson), 4. Brian Carranza (Jackson County)

Class AAAAA: 4. Ronny Link (Flowery Branch)


Class A: 1. Austin Brock (Commerce)

Class AAA: 1. Chris McCrackin (Banks County), 3. Tristan Duckworth (Lumpkin County)

Class AAAA: 1. Darius Bunch (Buford)


Class A: 1. Mitchell Patton (Commerce)

Class AAA: 1. Tanner Thurmond (Jefferson), 2. Connor Crump (Jackson County), 3. Dylan Suttles (Banks County)

Class AAAA: 3. Jack Barber (Buford)


Class A: 1. Owen Brown (Commerce)

Class AAAA: 1. Trent Ferguson (Buford), 3. Marvin Cunningham (Chestatee)


Class A: 3. Michael Patton (Commerce)

Class AAA: 1. Chase Piperato (Jefferson), 2. Greg Hilliard (Lumpkin County)

Class AAAA: 1. Michael Carew (North Hall), 3. Matthew McLellan (Chestatee)


Class A: 3. Chase Forrester (Commerce)

Class AAA: 3. Will Ballard (Jefferson)


Class A: 2. Knox Allen (Commerce)

Class AA: 2. Nick Fernandez (Riverside)

Class AAA: 1. Elliott Raiford (West Hall)

Class AAAA: 1. Fredis Velasquez (Johnson)


Class A: 1. Cole Chancey (Commerce), 3. Daulton Rogers (Towns County)

Class AAAA: 3. Isaiah Hale (North Hall)


Class A: 2. Dontavious Mosley (Commerce)

Class AAA: 1. Caleb Little (Jefferson), 3. Chuckie Allen (Jackson County)

Class AAAA: 3. Jaime Arroyo (Chestatee), 4. Jack Ness (Buford)


Class A: 4. Cole Sweeney (Commerce)

Class AAA: 4. Gavin Brown (Dawson County)

Class AAAA: 4. Grant Simonds (Buford)


Class A: 3. Tyreke Wiggins (Commerce)

Class AAAA: 3. Andrew Posten (White County)

Class AAAAA: 3. Kash Jones (Gainesville)


Class A: 1. Derek Benoit (Commerce)

Class AAA: 3. Victor Ramos (Lumpkin County)

MACON — Elliott Raiford and Michael Carew completed a satisfying culmination Saturday at the traditional state wrestling championships at the Macon Centreplex.

The Hall County wrestlers each earned state titles a year after finishing second in their respective weight classes.

Raiford, a West Hall senior, used his 2014 runner-up finish as fuel for his fire all season long. He made his 9-1 decision against Spencer's Joshua Sampson for the Class AAA state title at 160 pounds look easy. That came on the heels of a 7-1 semifinal victory Friday and a pair of pins Thursday.

Raiford finished the season 55-1 in handing Sampson his third loss of 2014-15.

"It was definitely a ton of motivation from last year," Raiford said. "Every practice, that was in the back of my mind."

His precise detail was on display when his coach congratulated him on dominating his semifinal Friday, and Raiford said he shouldn't have allowed a point. Raiford said he appreciates all the support he has received and he feels blessed by God.

West Hall coach Eric Radich said Raiford, an Appalachian State signee, fed off the disappointment of 2014 to improve his skills.

"He's one of those kids that put himself to work. Instead of going down, he went up," Radich said. "He said, 'I still love this sport. I still want to succeed. I'm going to get after it.'"

Carew earned a 6-3 decision against Gilmer's William Gudger for the Class AAAA 145-pound title, holding off a late charge from Gudger after nearly pinning the Gilmer wrestler. The Trojans junior was coming off a 9-1 semifinal triumph and two pins before that.

"I knew I had to hold him off there," Carew said. "I knew I had 40 seconds if I held him. What I'd worked for all my life was right there, 40 more seconds. So I just had to stay hard. He ended up scoring on me, but I was not going to let him turn me."

Carew wrapped up a 58-5 campaign in helping North Hall take seventh place in Class AAAA, just ahead of county rival Chestatee. He said he enjoyed having all his teammates and a lot of his family in attendance.

North Hall coach Stuart Cunningham said he was impressed with Carew's control of the match and getting three takedowns.

"That's the difference is that he's been there before," Cunningham said. "He realizes the things you can do in a finals match, the things you can't. The points are usually reduced. It may be close. That experience he brought to the tournament helped him win it this year."

Buford practice partners Darius Bunch and Trent Ferguson picked up Class AAAA state championships at 126 and 138, respectively, to help their team finish fourth. It was Bunch's second consecutive state title after an upset semifinal loss as a sophomore. Bunch plans to wrestle collegiately.

"I had beaten that kid before," Bunch said. "So I was already confident going onto the mat."

Ferguson, a sophomore, had finished fifth as a freshman before winning in double overtime on an escape in Saturday's championship final.

"It's the coolest feeling ever," Ferguson said.

Banks County junior Chris McCrackin earned his third state championship in as many seasons, taking home top honors in Class AAA at 126 in an 11-2 major decision against Central-Carroll's Dawson Hunt.

"I just wanted to have fun and score points," McCrackin said. "It's all about having fun. I think people take stuff like this too seriously."

Riverside Military Academy's Nick Fernandez finished second at 160 in Class AA after dropping a 6-2 decision to Social Circle's Cameron Paschal.

Commerce and Jefferson both turned in dominant performances to bring home team championships. The Tigers won eight of the 10 championship finals they were in to make it back-to-back traditional team titles. Meanwhile, the Dragons won all six championship finals they reached and earned their 15th straight traditional team state championship.

Commerce tallied 283 points in Class A, more than tripling second-place Turner's 90 points. The Tigers clinched the team title before taking the mat Saturday.

Casey Burchett (106), Jacob Brewer (113), Dalton Flint (120), Austin Brock (126), Mitchell Patton (132), Owen Brown (138), Cole Chancey (170) and Derek Benoit (285) each won an individual championship for Commerce.

"The team championship was clinched, so the guys could just relax and win an individual championship today," Commerce coach Kendall Love said. "To win eight out of 10 in the finals is something special."

Jefferson racked up 240.5 points in Class AAA, outdistancing second-place Lumpkin County's 125. Jackson County was sixth with 80 points and Banks County ninth with 73.

Dawson Bates (106), Mitchell McGhee (113), Ben Kelly (120), Tanner Thurmond (132), Chase Piperato (145) and Caleb Little (182) picked up individual titles for Jefferson.

Even with his program's pedigree, Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond didn't take Saturday's results for granted.

"It's different for each group because you've got new freshmen coming in that are on the team that meant the world to," Doug Thurmond said. "And then you've got seniors that don't want to lose because they've been winning, and they want to finish it right. So it means the world to them. Each group's different, and winning never gets tiring."

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