CALHOUN, Ga. -- Eric Elrod is all about achieving goals, and the Sonoraville High School wrestling coach can check off one big one following a strong showing at the GHSA Class AA West Sectionals Saturday.
The Firebirds will send the maximum 14 wrestlers to the state traditional tournament this Thursday through Saturday at the Gwinnett Arena, sending a clear message to state kingpin Jefferson that the state title will not be easily won.
"We've never done that before and I'm extremely excited," said Elrod, whose team had champions in Bricen Romine at 119 and Jay Teague at 130. "That was one of our goals and it's very satisfying to achieve it. We had to fight our tails off today. The Columbus schools brought some tremendous athletes and Region 6-AA -- I'll call it the private school region -- was very tough, and all of them are well coached.
"In the end it's going to better prepare us for going through the fire next week. I hear Jefferson got 13 through, and I don't know that's much of an advantage on a team that's won 10 times in a row, but we'll take anything we can get."
Though team scores aren't kept at the sectional tournaments, the head scorekeeper said Sonoraville was at least 100 points ahead of the next closest team, Lovett, which will send nine wrestlers to the state. The Firebirds' depth was devastating as the team had one individual runner-up, Matt Woodring, and six third-place finishers.
Though Elrod was happy with several of his wrestlers, Romine's achievement was particularly pleasing. The third-place finisher in last week's area tournament upset top-seeded Joey Tamburello of Dade County, 4-3, after trailing 3-1 entering the final period. The junior was able to withstand Tamburello's early momentum, and an obvious endurance advantage paid off.
"Endurance was the key," Romine said. "When I was back in the middle [of the mat] and he was out of bounds and got hit with stalling, I knew I was in good shape because he was tiring. Hopefully we can take the team championship, too. We just have to pick up our game a little and maybe we can give Jefferson a run."
n At the Class AAA West Sectional at Woodward Academy, Heritage qualified nine wrestlers for the state field. Finishing first for the Generals was 119-pounder Madison Martin. LaFayette qualified all eight of its sectional wrestlers, led by first-place finishers Preston McCalmon (135) and Brady Hart (140). Defending state champion Gilmer County qualified 11 for the state.
Gordon Lee qualified seven of the 10 wrestlers the Tojans took to the Class A West Sectionals at Bremen, including first-place finishers Mika Clark (112) and Alex Spires (119). Northwest Whitfield will take five wrestlers to the Class AAAA state.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.