One clutch win after another was what solidified a second-place finish for the Chestatee wrestling program in the Area 8-4A duals Saturday in Jefferson.
Now the War Eagles are in need of one more big weekend to qualify for the state duals bracket.
At Area, Chestatee beat East Hall in the first round and North Oconee in the semifinals, before falling to Jefferson in the finals.
Now, the War Eagles are gearing up for a four-team sectionals bracket this weekend that includes Columbus, Miller Grove and Howard. Wrestling will take place at Columbus High and only one team will earn a berth to the state.
If early-season success is any indication about future performance, War Eagles wrestling coach Scott DeGraff likes his program’s chances of making it to state, after failing to qualify for state sectionals last season.
In just Year 2 with the school’s wrestling program, DeGraff said his primary agenda is building good relationships with the kids in his program.
A team that started with 14 when he took over in the fall of 2020 has swelled to 40 this season.
“We coach these kids hard, but also love on them,” DeGraff said. “The kids are buying in to what we’re doing.”
Already this season, Chestatee has claimed the Hall County championship and beat defending Class 2A state champion Fannin County.
And since DeGraff considers Jefferson the overwhelming favorite to win the state championship, he’s not deterred by the War Eagles getting second in 8-4A.
Chestatee’s big weekend at Area was shaped by its gutsy performance against a quality North Oconee in the semifinal bout.
“Our Area went one, two, three overall at the state duals last year,” DeGraff said. “Our kids keep going out there, working hard and getting better.”
After wrestling started at 285 pounds and the War Eagles picked up a huge pin from heavyweight Nate Brazier, the momentum continued and the victory was secured late with wins by Bryant Barnes (160), Cason Goss (170) and Daniel Zaleta (195) against North Oconee.
Also in the lighter weights, the War Eagles picked up pivotal wins from Kadin McDonald (106), Alexis Guardado (113), Chris Pruitt (120), Eli Raines (126) and DeAngelo Pruitt (32).
“I thought all of our kids wrestled great,” DeGraff added.
To secure the win in the opener, against East Hall, Chestatee had a spirited victory by TJ Terry (138) who outlasted a Vikings state placer from 2021.
Chestatee is looking to add to its wrestling tradition, which includes a girls state championship at the all-classification state meet in 2021.