MACON, Ga. — Brent Raby was hoping to be sitting back Friday night and able to relax — as much as a wrestling coach will allow himself — but there's too much work to be done if the Gordon Lee Trojans are to claim a double championship this year.
After the first day of Class A competition in the GHSA traditional state tournament, the Trojans and nemesis Holy Innocents' are locked in another tight battle. The Trojans lead 134.5 points to 124 following a semifinal round in which each team advanced five to today's championship round.
Each also lost a couple of semifinal matches it didn't expect to.
"We've got some kids in the wrestlebacks now, a couple I didn't expect to have," Raby said. "They couldn't have done any more than they did, but they just came up short. This makes tomorrow's round very important. Last year we had five kids in this round and we went 0-5 in the consolations. We need to do better this time."
The Trojans have six wrestlers alive in the consolation semifinals, where Holy Innocents' has five. Each had a top-seeded wrestler lose Friday.
In the teams' only head-to-head matchup Friday, Gordon Lee senior Alex Spires decisioned Owen Penn 5-3 in a heated 138-pound bout.
"It felt like a finals match to me," Spires said. "I knew it was going to be tough and I'll have another tough one in the finals. It feels good to beat a good kid, and it would feel even better to win the championship."
Spires' win was part of a torrid start by the Trojans, who began the semifinals with wins by Stihl Lance at 106, Johnny Ragsdale at 113 and Blake Clayton at 120, who pinned his opponent in 12 seconds.
"I got him with a whip-over," Clayton said. "I wanted to get him as soon as I can. I've done this since I was in the third grade and I've worked hard since I was a freshman to get to the state, and now I finally made it my senior year."
Gordon Lee earned two more finalists, Will Jacks at 145 pounds and Shane Farmer's last-second win at 182, to set the Trojans up for a big finish today.
In Class AAAA, which began competition Thursday, tournament favorite Gilmer County built a 154-131 lead over nearest pursuer Carrollton on the strength of five finalists. Leading the Bobcats were Marcelino Lopez (106), Joshua Harrison (120), Cameron Perry (126), Johnie Flakes (138) and Jared Sweat (170).
Area rival Heritage had a strong showing in sixth place, placing freshman Isaiah Knight (113) and senior Michael Moore (182) in the finals. Southeast Whitfield's Carlos Fraire earned a spot in the 220-pound final with a hard-fought 5-3 win over West Laurens' Tyler Rapes.
The other area finalists are Ringgold's Sam Sheppard at 120 and Sonoraville's Cody Kuhn at 152 in Class AAA and Chattooga's undefeated J.J. Blankenship at 126 in Class AA.
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 ...