Saturday proved to be a benchmark day in the brief history of the Heritage High School wrestling program, but not before the Generals had to overcome some early adversity.
Already down 6-0 to two-time area and state dual champion Gilmer County in the finals of the 7-AAA duals tournament Saturday, Heritage was facing the real possibility of a 12-0 deficit with Gilmer two-time state finalist Justin Karr waiting on the mat at 120 pounds.
Though the deficit did grow, Austin Frye battled Karr to the end in a 4-2 loss that ignited a Heritage rally to a 37-21 win.
The Generals will be the No. 1 seed from 7-AAA next week, with Gilmer No. 2, at the state duals in Macon. The Bobcats earned the second state berth with a hard-fought win over surprising LaFayette, which came in as the tournament's 10th seed.
"Considering the region we're in, winning this title is really special," Heritage coach Kenny Hill said. "They were expecting a pin at 120, but Austin gave him all he wanted, and from there we really took off."
The Generals recorded four consecutive wins, including bonus points from Madison Martin and Landon Reed, before Gilmer broke the string with wins at 152 and 160. However, Heritage started another four-bout win streak, with Ethan Thompson's win at 195 clinching the program's first area title.
"This is the first group that started together at the middle school, and they've had to play second fiddle to Gilmer and LaFayette for years, so this is a nice payoff for all the hours they've put in," Hill said. "Hopefully we will get back to work Monday and go out and win a state title next week."
• Gordon Lee earned a spot in the Class A state duals with a runner-up finish at the Area 1 tournament Saturday. The Trojans fell 41-20 to host Holy Innocents' in the championship match.
Two bouts were the big difference, according to Gordon Lee coach Brent Raby, including an ankle injury to defending state champion Alex Spires at 126 pounds that resulted in a six-point injury default.
"We hope it's just a sprain, but he couldn't go on," Raby said. "We lost six points there, and at 113 we had a kid on his back and the referee hit the mat. We're thinking we just got a pin but he called a defensive pin. That 12-point swing was huge. Still, they're tough and I think they'll be the one of the favorites. I think we can wrestle with them and [defending champion] Bremen, though."
Earning finals wins for the Trojans were Jonny Ragsdale, Micah Clark, Will Jacks, Ethan West and Corey Jewell.
• Calhoun won the championship at the Area 7-AA tournament at Sonoraville, defeating the hosts 40-26. Calhoun, which had earlier defeated Adairsville, and Sonoraville, which upset Rockmart, will represent the area in the state tournament.