published Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Heritage has first state wrestling title

DULUTH, Ga. -- A month ago Kenny Hill openly questioned the toughness of his wrestlers. Saturday, after they won the GHSA Class AAA traditional state team championship, the Heritage coach acknowledged that his senior-laden team turned the tables this weekend at the Gwinnett Arena.

The Generals fought fiercely with Region 7 rival Gilmer County, edging the three-time consecutive champion Bobcats 139 points to 128 to earn the first state championship in the program's brief history. Gilmer had upset Heritage in the finals of the state duals last month.

"When this started four years ago, I was fortunate enough to have been able to go over to the middle school and work with these kids," Hill said. "We started talking about state championships, and we've gone to top tournaments, but nothing compares to this right here. After losing in the duals like we did and to come back and to fight like they've fought, it says a lot about how these seniors stepped up."

Heritage managed just one individual title among five finalists -- senior Landon Reed at 132 pounds -- but the Generals' overall depth was too much for the Bobcats to match. Finishing second for Heritage were Madison Martin (126), Logan Perkins (145), Andy Bratton (170) and Michael Moore (195), while Jacob Tripp earned a third-place finish at 182.

"Give Gilmer credit. My gosh, they came out and their kids are so tough, so it took a team effort to win this," said Hill, who also praised his assistant coaches, Mike Craft and Hardin Satterfield. "We brought 10 here and they all scored points. To go 1-4 in the finals doesn't take away from the way these kids wrestled. Each of them put it on the line."

The title was sewn up when Reed edged Oconee County's Jake Hodges, 3-2, for the senior's second consecutive individual title. Reed, headed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, knew Hodges was aggressive, so he had to alter his usual game plan.

"I knew he shot a lot, and I thought he would be a little quicker than me, so my plan was to keep him from shooting a lot I should be able to win," Reed said. "I kept catching him in front headlocks and holding him there a lot.

"Last night I got my 200th win, and today I get two state championships, so it's been a great weekend."

Gordon Lee's shot at its first state title came up short as the Trojans finished second to defending champion Bremen, 154 points to 138 1/2, despite getting state championships from freshman Johnny Ragsdale at 106 pounds, Ethan West at 160 and Corey Jewell at 195. An 0-for-5 showing in Saturday's consolation semifinals doomed the Trojans' title hopes.

Coach Brent Raby, however, took solace in finishing ahead of third-place Holy Innocents', the controversial duals champion.

"After the controversy in Macon, we wanted to beat Holy Innocents'," Raby said. "Now, we would have loved to have beaten Bremen, too, but losing all five matches in the consolations really hurt us. If we win even two of those we're in the team hunt. This is great competition and hat's off to Bremen. They wrestled well and did what they had to do to win this championship."

about Lindsey Young...

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 ...

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