CUMMING — It’s nothing new to Dennis Stromie to coach a top-notch wrestling program. During his 22-year career at Parkview, he coached the Panthers to 12 area titles.
When he took over at West Forsyth in 2008, the newly opened school hit the ground running with a trip to state as a No. 2 seed. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise with a year of experience under the Wolverines’ belts, they were able to one-up last year’s performance and come away with this season’s Area 7-AAA title on Saturday at West Forsyth.
"It’s exciting that we’ve been able to be competitive quickly at this school," Stromie said. "It’s also gratifying to see all the hard work the kids put into this pay off."
The Wolverines defeated Lumpkin County 45-27 in the finals to win the school’s first Area 7-AAA title in wrestling in only its second year. As a result, West Forsyth and Lumpkin County will be 7-AAA’s two representatives to the state meet on Friday.
Fourth-seeded Lumpkin County qualified for the state duals meet — which Stromie was instrumental in creating in its current format in 2000 — for the first time in school history. The Indians punched their ticket to the state duals by knocking off the four-time defending Area 7-AAA champions Gilmer using a tie-breaker criteria in the semifinals.
Against Gilmer, the key to victory for Lumpkin County came when 189-pounder Brandon Roberts won the final match by way of a technical fall. The Indians finished with three pins against the Bobcats.
"It’s good to see our hard work pay off this season to qualify for state," Lumpkin County coach Brian Matthews said. "Being able to beat Gilmer was the key for us this weekend."
James Snipes (112), Wesley Forrester (119), Chris Burnette (135), Jake McClure (171), Brandon Roberts (189), Travis Burton (215) and Cody Cantrell (285) all had wins for Lumpkin County in the match which ensured its state berth.
However, that momentum was short lived once the finals rolled around. Stromie said he was hoping to start the finals winning at least one of the first two weight classes (112 and 119). The Wolverines’ coach said he felt it was a great barometer of things to come when Robbie Kudela (112) and Garrett Tedone (119) both came away with wins to put West Forsyth ahead 12-0 right off the bat.
West Forsyth finished the match with wins in eight weight classes, including pins by Evan Burchette (130), Ross Andersokow (152) and Jeff Sayer (285). The Wolverines made it to the finals with a 37-28 win against White County in the semifinals. West Forsyth won nine of its 14 weight classes against White County and had a major decision win from Reice Thompson (189) in the final weight classes contested to ensure victory. West Forsyth was leading 33-28 heading into the Thompson’s win.
Saturday’s finals were quite a rebound for West Forsyth after struggling to pull out a 34-28 win against Creekview in Friday’s second round.
"We went from wrestling as bad as we have all season (Friday), to as well as we have all season (Saturday)," Stromie said.
Burnette (135), McClure (171) and Roberts (189) all had pins for the Indians in the finals.
Hall County champions Flowery Branch finished the Area 7-AAA Duals with a 3-2 record. Danny Bell (119), Brandon Dyer (130) and Ben Yu (152) all finished the weekend undefeated with five wins each for the Falcons.
"I’m very proud of how our team competed," Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said. "This was a good learning experience for our program."