North Hall used a strong finish to defeat Buford for the Area 8-AAAA duals wrestling championship on Saturday at Buford, making the Trojans one of multiple area teams to punch their state duals tickets for next week in Macon.
Gil Hoffman was behind with about 15 seconds left at 160 pounds, but Trojans coach Stuart Cunningham said Hoffman’s five-point lateral move almost ended with a pin and earned him a one-point victory.
That put North Hall within four points of the Wolves, and Pablo Chavarria closed the match in dramatic fashion with a pin at 170 for a 36-34 Trojans triumph.
“It was awesome. It really was. They overcame a lot. They could have backed off a little bit,” said Cunningham in a phone interview. “They wrestled to the very end of the matches. It paid off. I just couldn’t be more proud of them and the whole team, assistant coaches, parents and everybody.”
John Pedraza (106), Mike Reitrib (113), Michael Carew (145), Isaiah Hale (182), Darrien Ingram (220) and Randy Galvin (285) all went undefeated for North Hall on Saturday. Cunningham said his group focused on its own relentless work ethic rather than Buford’s credentials as defending Class AAA duals and traditional state champion.
“Wednesday you could have heard a pin drop in the room, other than their shoes on the mat,” Cunningham said. “They really wanted it.”
Gainesville worked its way through the consolation bracket of the Area 8-AAAAA duals and capped its run with a 35-28 win against Heritage to punch its area’s second state duals spot.
A 36-34 loss to Lanier on Friday didn’t bode well for Nick Niesielowski’s Red Elephants, but they fought back Saturday to beat Winder-Barrow (59-18) and Flowery Branch (43-28) to earn a consolation finals rematch with Lanier.
Gainesville won 54-19 in its second shot at the Longhorns to set up the true-second matchup with Heritage.
Niesielowski pointed to Kash Jones’ pin at 220 and an overtime win for Ken Flenoy at 126 in setting up the winning finish against Heritage, which was capped with a Jerson Garcia (145) pin, a Tristen Garrett (152) decision triumph and a Terrell Knight (160) major decision.
Niesielowski said his team battled injuries all season and benefited from the return of Triston Cantrell (195, 4-0) and Anthony Costantini (170, 3-2).
“They wanted it,” said Niesielowski of his team earning a spot in the 16-team Class AAAAA state duals field.
Banks County secured the Area 7-AAA title, defeating Lumpkin County 46-21. It was much closer than the score, according to Leopards coach Kasey Hanley, as it was 28-21 before the Indians lost a match on an injury default, then forfeited the final two matches.
Banks is coming off a AAA duals runner-up finish in 2014 and a duals state title in 2013 but had nine new wrestlers in its lineup this season.
“We knew we had some talented young kids, but you didn’t know how they were going to respond,” Hanley said.
Devin Mullinax (106), Korey Turner (120), Chris McCrackin (126), Dylan Suttles (132), Davis Day (138), Clayton Dykhouse (145) and Chris Guthrie (160) all went 2-0 for the Leopards.
Lumpkin defeated West Hall in a true-second matchup to earn 7-AAA’s second state spot.
West Hall coach Eric Radich was particularly pleased with his team’s effort in a 41-31 semifinal loss to Banks County.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them. We lost to the area champions by 10 points,” Radich said. “That was tough, and they battled back to place the highest we’ve placed in recent years.”
Elliott Raiford went 5-0 at 160 to pace the Spartans, while Julio Gallegos was 4-1 at 126 and
Quinton Cone 3-1 at 285.
Perennial state champion Jefferson had a first-round bye at the Area 8-AAA duals before defeating Morgan County 62-17 and Oconee County 67-12. Those teams finished third and second, respectively.
“That was kind of nice for us because we got a look at several good teams there,” Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said.
Jefferson, which has won every state traditional championship it has competed for since 2001 and every state duals title since they began being contested in 2002, will seek its first Class AAA duals title starting Thursday in Macon.