ELLIJAY, Ga. - For the first time since Georgia started crowning wrestling duals champions, the extreme northwest Georgia area will not have a representative from its largest region at next week's state tournament.
Gilmer County, seeking its fifth consecutive state title, and Cass will represent Region 7-AAAA in Macon after strong showings at the area meet Saturday. The top-ranked Bobcats went undefeated in the two-day event, though they had to win several tight matches against the Colonels in the championship round before pulling away for a 36-18 win.
Cass then had to defeat Northwest Whitfield to earn its state berth and, despite having little time to recover from its title-bout loss, recorded six pins to rout the Bruins, 54-24.
The Georgia area near Chattanooga will still have a strong title contender after Class A defending champion Gordon Lee won the 3-A duals at Trion, defeating Mount Zion, Carroll, 52-30, in the finals. Sonoraville repeated as champion of the 3-AAA duals at Fannin County with a 43-19 win over Adairsville in the final round. Those two champs will go on to Macon.
For Gilmer, Saturday's title tilt with Cass was every bit as tough as the Bobcats believed it would be, according to veteran coach Sam Snider.
"We wrestled them twice before and we were missing six or seven starters and they were missing a couple as well, and even though we won those, they were very close," said Snider, whose team started the match with consecutive pins from Matthew Waddell (170 pounds) and Nick Windsor to build a quick lead. "With both teams at full strength, we knew this was going to be a battle because they're very tough.
"I really believe we'll see each other in the state finals in Macon. There will be some other good teams at the state, but in my opinion these are the two best teams in the state."
Decisions at 195 for Zach Allen, heavyweight for Levi Seabolt, 113 for Jacob Harrison and 120 for Marcellino Lopez proved to be the difference for Gilmer. Neither team recorded a pin after the first two bouts.
Snider's claim that the two will meet again next week will get no argument from Northwest Whitfield coach Allen Tucker, whose team was blitzed by six consecutive pins or technical falls in the second-place loss to Cass.
"Those two teams are the cream of the crop," Tucker said. "As for my little bunch, we didn't do too badly to get third. In that last match we had seven combined freshmen and sophomores in the lineup. We've improved so much. The last time we wrestled LaFayette they beat us 50-24, and we came back and beat them today. We can't complain, and maybe next year we can make some noise in this tournament."
The Bruins won 54-28 over Dalton and 42-36 over LaFayette to reach the second-place match. LaFayette eliminated Heritage in the consolation semifinals.
• Gordon Lee recorded eight pins, including first-period falls by Zach Murdock (106), Johnny Ragsdale (113), Hunter Freeman (145) and Will Jacks (152) in defeating a Mount Zion team that has several returning state medalists. The Trojans, who defeated Mount Paran 72-9 in the semifinals, also received pins from Stihl Lance, Dylan Skipper, Sydney Rhinehart and Shane Farmer in what coach Brent Raby called one of the team's best performances of the season.
"We seem to come alive whenever we wrestle a really good team, and we did so again today," Raby said. "Our goal every year is to peak at the duals, and while I know we're not quite at 100 percent, we're getting close."
Trion, which lost to Mount Zion in the semifinals, finished third and will be the area's alternate team.
• In the 3-AA tournament at Pepperell on Friday, Lovett and Pepperell finished first and second with the host Dragons' three-point win over Calhoun in the semifinals the tournament's top match.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.