CEDARTOWN, Ga. — The expected and unexpected ruled the day at the Georgia Area 7-AAAA wrestling duals tournament Saturday.
Top-ranked Gilmer County's complete domination of the field was capped by a 54-16 win over LaFayette in the championship round. Sam Snider's Bobcats recorded seven pins in the title match to earn the area's top seed in next week's state duals in Macon.
The unexpected started early Saturday and continued until the tournament's final match, when upstart Southeast Whitfield defeated LaFayette 36-28 to earn the Dalton school's first berth in the state field.
"I knew there was about outside chance, but I don't think many people gave us a shot," Southeast coach Michael Herndon said. "Being a fifth seed with so many good teams in this region, we knew it would be tough. With the kids we have, I knew we had a chance. I'm just proud of them, that's all I can say."
Three pins in the first four bouts by Edgardo Ortiz, Carlos Fraire and Chris Rosas got the Raiders off to a blazing start against LaFayette, but Southeast had to hang on late. Trailing 27-12, the Ramblers reeled off three consecutive pins by Sam Lemons, Britton Gilbert and Dalton Smith to cut the team marginto three points.
But the Raiders regrouped, and when Austin Allen earned a 7-2 decision with one match left, it meant Andrew Miranda only had to keep from getting pinned to seal the win. Miranda did better than that, though, earning a 4-0 decision.
LaFayette's Ramblers, absent from the state tournament the past two seasons, began their impressive Saturday with a 33-27 win over No. 2 seed and defending area champion Heritage. The Generals led 27-21 with three bouts to go before Britton Gilbert tied it for LaFayette with a pin and Dalton Smith rallied from a third-period 4-2 deficit to pull out a 8-4 win. Joe Clayton sealed the victory with a decision at 152.
"The fact we were even in a big match was huge for this program," LaFayette coach Keith Mariakis said. "We're defeated right now, but I will be surprised if we don't walk into that practice room Monday and get right after it. This can only make us better."
Southeast had to defeat Cass twice to make the second-place match. After a relatively easy 20-point win in Friday's quarterfinals, the Raiders, after falling to Gilmer, found themselves trailing 30-15 with three bouts remaining in a match that would decide who would wrestle LaFayette for second place.
However, Lester Pavcay, Tanner Acosta and Austin Allen earned consecutive pins to pull out the startling win, 33-30.
"I was very nervous about that match," Herndon said. "They had a couple of kids out and I knew it was tough beating a great team twice. They came back and won it, though, which says everything you need to know about the guys."
Gilmer, which rolled past Southeast, 54-14, in the semifinal round, did its damage with two starters out. Snider expects those two to return in time for the state tournament.
"With everybody back I think we can continue to improve and get ready for next week," he said. "As usual, 7-AAAA is one of the toughest regions in the state. LaFayette did not cut us any slack. They won four matches and could have won eight. Any team that comes out of this region is tested, but there are some good teams in other parts of the state."
• Gordon Lee backed up its No. 1 ranking in Class A with the Area 3-A title at Darlington, downing Mount Zion, Carroll, 47-27, in the championship match after routing Darlington 63-16 in the semifinals. The Trojans, who forfeited three bouts against Mount Zion after having the match in hand, are looking ahead to the state duals.
"Mount Zion has won three tournaments this year, so they're a good team," Gordon Lee coach Brent Raby said. "They're young, but they get after it. I'm not sure where we'll be seeded for the state, but it doesn't matter. We have one goal, to win the state title. We wrestled very well today and we're peaking at the right time again."
• In the Area 2-AAA duals at North Murray, Sonoraville earned the title with a 58-22 win over Rockmart in the final match. For the Phoenix, who had defeated Central, Carroll, 45-21 in the quarterfinals, and beat Adairsville 62-10 in the semifinals, Matt Charles, Ryan Farist, Jacob Bagwell and Alex Hurtiz had pins in the title match.
• In the Area 3-AA event, host Lovett defeated Calhoun for the title and both teams will be in the Class AA field next week.
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 ...