Area 8-AAA tournament
White County 103
Oconee County 94
Lumpkin County 86.5
West Hall 84
Franklin County 70.5
North Hall 54
Stephens County 32
Walnut Grove 31.5
Monroe Area 31
There’s enough wrestling talent in the ranks of Area 8-AAA to make it a serious grind just to claim one of the top four seeds to next Friday’s North Sectionals at Locust Grove High.
However, when an unseeded wrestler upsets one that enters as the No. 1 seed, such was the case in the 285-pound classification, then it makes it even that much more challenging.
On Day 1 of the Area 8-AAA traditionals on Friday at Chestatee High, West Hall heavyweight Jimmy Lopez pulled off a reverse and takedown in the third period of a second-round match to earn the win against Walnut Grove’s Christian
Afterward, Lopez said it was the best feeling he’s experienced as a wrestler and is looking to earn a top-seed in the final day of action that begins at 9:30 a.m. today at Chestatee. The finals are projected to begin for this individual based competition at 3 p.m.
With Lopez’s win, he assumes the position in the bracket the top-seeded wrestler previously held.
“I can’t say in words how much this means to me,” Lopez said. “I thought I could win, but I knew it was going to be a very tough match.”
Lopez was one of eight Spartans wrestlers that made it through to the semifinals en route to 84 team points, which was good enough for fourth place after three rounds of the traditional meet. After the first day, White County owned first place with 103 points and 10 wrestlers that qualified for the semifinals. Oconee County (94) stood in second place, while Lumpkin County (86) ended the day in third.
In Area 8-AAAA, Flowery Branch finished the first day of its traditional meet in fourth place, only three points behind Rockdale County. The Falcons had eight wrestlers qualify for the semifinals, including a victory by unseeded 140-pounder Adam Wellborn against the No. 3 seed from Clarke Central.
White County took to the top of the competition thanks in part to a pair of last-second pins. Billy Wurtz (103) pulled through with a pin, despite being down 22-12 early in his match. Also for White County, Tyler Reeves pulled out a pin in overtime against John Huff from Oconee County.
“That was two great matches for us there,” White County coach Tim Bragg said. “They had a never-say-quit attitude and were able to win.”
Oconee County, this year’s area duals champion, sent eight wrestlers on the semifinals.
Led by pins from Aaron Salazar (145), Michael Hilliard (152), Lee Cagle (160) and Travis Burton (215), Lumpkin County put eight through to the semifinals and ended the day in third.
“We had a really good second round (Friday),” Lumpkin County coach Brian Matthews said. “Everyone we expected to win, won.”
The one difference to this year’s traditional meet is the fact that first-round byes were drawn at random, with each weight class having at least three wrestlers earning a bye by the luck of the draw. In all, 62 wrestlers had the first-round bye, but that comes at the expense of not being able to earn those possible points for their team.
“Nobody wants to have a bye, but as long as it’s done at random then the coaches are fine with it,” Matthews said. “You have to have some with a bye to make the brackets work.”
Chestatee sophomore Aaron Anderson (215) was ecstatic not to have a first-round bye. Entering the weekend with 38 wins on the season, he picked up two wins on the opening day to set up a battle against Franklin County’s Wesley Fields in the semifinals this morning.
These two wrestlers have been neck-and-neck in their two previous meetings this season, including a 1-0 win by Anderson against Fields just last week.
In the second round, Anderson battled to victory in three rounds against North Hall’s Cam Howell. Anderson says wrestling in Area 8-AAA is a distinct advantage with all the tough competition to battle through just trying to get to the state in two weeks.
“I’m just trying to get through to the sectionals,” Anderson said. “I think the competition in this area is tougher than what there will be at the sectionals.”
West Hall senior Tanner Yates (140) was one of the wrestlers that had to sit out the first round with a bye. Yates, now with 194 career wins, was hoping to get a first-round match to get another victory closer to his goal of 200 wins before graduating.
If he advances through the semifinals, Yates projects he’ll face Oconee County’s Ethan Griffin in the finals this afternoon. Earlier in the season, Yates beat Griffin by three points.
In the second round, Monroe Area 145-pounder Luke Johnson suffered what appeared to be a neck injury. In accordance to rules for neck injuries, he was strapped to a stretcher with a neck brace for precaution and taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center for evaluation.
According to coaches from Monroe Area, he was given a CAT Scan, but were still waiting to hear his condition before wrestling concluded on Friday.
In Area 8-AA, Jefferson sits in first place in the traditional meet at its own school. The Dragons have qualified 13 wrestlers for this morning’s semifinals. “We’ve done well so far, we just have to keep it up,” Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said.