There were plenty of milestones on the team and individual levels for Hall County’s representatives at the Georgia High School Association’s traditional state wrestling tournament last weekend at the Macon Centreplex.
The latter category was dominated by the Chestatee girls, who had five different state placers, including individual 155-pound state champion Ashley Godinez, to win the girls all-classification championship with 82 team points.
Though the title was actually the second team title for the Lady War Eagles, which scored more points than any girls team in the 2021 meet, it was the first girls team title officially recognized by the GHSA.
And Chestatee coach Scott DeGraff said it took a lot of work both on and off the mat for the Lady War Eagles to make history.
“The girls wrestled really, really well (last) weekend,” DeGraff said. “They came out and executed game plans. We spent some time looking at some video (and) coming up with some plans against certain competition, and they went out and bought in and believed in what we were trying to do.
“They wrestled really well and obviously walked away with a state championship. We went in (to the tournament) with six girls and walked away with five medals.”
Godinez led those medal winners by going through three different opponents, including a pin of Grovetown’s Gabriel Phillips in the finals, to not only claim the title at 155, but clear two other milestones in the process.
The senior’s victory also set the tone for Chestatee’s other placers Courtney Hawkins (runner-up, 105), Abby Plemons (third, 130), Jaden Lee (runner-up, 190) and Isabella Redlinger (fourth, 235).
“Obviously, they’re all big deals, (but) Ashley winning her state title, that makes her the first four-time state placer in school history,” DeGraff said. “She also hit 100 career wins (over the) weekend. That’s a big deal. Courtney Hawkins at 105, this is her first year wrestling and she makes it to the finals. … Abby Plemons, who wrestled a great tournament, … we came up with a game plan and she executed and was able to pull out third (place). We had Jaden Lee, who’s just a second-year wrestler (and) just really come a long way and made it to the finals.”
It was also a big weekend for Chestatee’s boys team, which also had five different state placers, led by third-place finishes from Alexis Guardado at 113 and Ely Raines at 132, to score 92 points, good for fourth place in Class 4A.
Combined with the girls’ performance, DeGraff came out extremely pleased with how both his teams closed out a successful 2022-23 season.
“(The boys) ended up missing third by six points or so, but we had five state placers,” DeGraff said. “We took nine guys and had five state placers, … so I’m really impressed with them. We had two guys finish third.
“It was a good weekend for our program. We walked out of there with 10 state placers and two trophies, so I couldn’t be more excited and happy for where our program is right now and for our kids, really, because they worked so hard this year. They bought into the vision that we’ve had and haven’t really looked back.”
The two Chestatee teams were just two of four top-10 team performances from Hall County squads.
North Hall joined the War Eagles in the Class 4A boys top-10 by placing eighth behind a runner-up finish from Connor Free (144) and third-place showings from Joey Carew (157) and Zeke Harris (175).
Meanwhile, Flowery Branch had three placers to tie for seventh place in Class 5A, with the Falcons being led by an extraordinary individual feat by Seth Larson.
Despite missing much of the season with a back injury, the junior capped a big late-season run by scoring an 11-3 major decision over Calhoun’s Isaac Green in the 157-pound final to take home his third state title in as many years.
As DeGraff mentioned about Chestatee’s girls team, Larson said that mental preparation was just as important as physical prep in his title run.
And Larson, who is already verbally committed as a junior to wrestle in college at Campbell University, says this is only the beginning for him.
“It’s everything,” said Larson. “The mental side of it, too, is very heartening. Just for the opportunity to come back, it was really special to me.
“My back is close to 100 percent, but being in wrestling shape, I’m probably about 40 or 50 percent right now. I’m only going up from here. That’s the plan. I’m not stopping anytime soon.”
Larson was joined by state-placer finishes from teammates Griffin Harper (runner-up, 165) and Cal Rockenbach (third, 190) to lead Flowery Branch’s team total.
But he and Godinez weren’t the only individual to reach a milestone by battling their way to the top of the podium over the weekend.
East Hall’s Caleb Pruitt edged Lovett’s Christian Bell for a 4-3 decision to lock down the Class 4A title at 285 pounds to cap a perfect 56-0 season.
In all, 30 Hall County boys and girls indivdiuals finished as state placers in the meet.
2023 GHSA STATE TRADTIONAL WRESTLING INDIVIDUAL PLACERS
138 Austin Beverly (sixth)
144 Hayden Biggs (sixth)
106 Kadin McDonald (sixth)
113 Alexis Guardado (third)
132 Ely Raines (third)
215 Daniel Zaleta (sixth)
285 Nate Brazier (sixth)
190 Jacob Hernandez (sixth)
285 Caleb Pruitt (champion)
157 Seth Larson (champion)
165 Griffin Harper (runner-up)
190 Cal Rockenbach (third)
144 Mario Bolivar (third)
165 Jose Benitez (sixth)
215 Sky Niblett (fourth)
120 Jud Farmer (sixth)
285 Guillermo Rosales (third)
144 Connor Free (runner-up)
157 Joey Carew (third)
175 Zeke Harris (third)
106 Michael Moya (sixth)
215 David Beverly (third)
105 Courtney Hawkins (runner-up)
130 Abby Plemons (third)
155 Ashley Godinez (champion)
190 Jaden Lee (runner-up)
235 Isabella Redinger (fourth)
170 Litzy Soto (third)
125 McKenzie English (sixth)
145 Katelyn Hill (145)