DULUTH, Ga. —LaFayette came into the GHSA Traditional Wrestling Championships with no chance to win a team title, but that didn't stop the Ramblers from making some noise on day two at the Gwinnett Center.
Two LaFayette wrestlers will compete in today's finals—one whom most expected to be there and one few outside of the Ramblers program and fans gave much of a shot. Two-time champion Preston McCalmon wrestled a technically strong match to defeat Eastside's Kevin Thompson 8-0, displaying the confidence and knowledge that comes from reaching the finals four consecutive seasons.
The surprise of the day, though, was LaFayette 145-pounder Dalton Smith, who was not seeded among the top four in his class. The senior, who failed to place in his first varsity action last year here, upset top-seeded Rodney Henson of Henry County, 6-1. Afterward, he could barely contain his emotions.
"I've worked my whole life and it finally paid off," he said. "Nothing feels better. There were lots of hard work in practice and drilling hours. I've got to focus and not be satisfied and go after what I've worked so hard for. I can't let anybody take it away."
Coach Lee Dendy praised Smith's effort and work ethic.
"He's just a workaholic," Dendy said. "He's been there every day and he just gets after it. He's got a college mentality about the way he brings his game. He never gets tired. To come down here after not placing last year and make it to the finals says something about him.
"He couldn't crack the lineup until his junior year because we had all those good guys ahead of him. He bided his time and he's really earned it this year."
McCalmon, who is headed to Arizona State on a wrestling scholarship, said his teammates deserved credit for his individual achievement.
"I'm just real proud of everybody who is laying it on the line in the tournament and all the kids who didn't make it who continued to come to the practice room," he said.
Improbable Bruins win
Northwest Whitfield heavyweight Adam Selby was getting thrown around like a rag doll in his consolation quarterfinal match. Outweighed by a good 30 pounds, Selby found himself trailing 13-2 with under 30 seconds to go when he caught his opponent off guard and stuck him.
"I just stuck with it," Selby said. "All week we practiced not giving up, and I didn't. I'm getting used to it, wrestling at 230 against 260. He underhooked me and I overhooked it and tripped him to his back and got a pin. I've never won one like that."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...