DULUTH, Ga. -- Sonoraville was unable to maintain the momentum it had late Friday in the Georgia traditional wrestling tournament, ultimately finishing second to Class AA juggernaut Jefferson by 18 1/2 points.
It is the closest any program has come to dethroning the now 11-time champions, and though neither coach Eric Elrod nor his wrestlers were happy with the runner-up status, it was Sonoraville's best-ever traditional finish.
"We had no pressure going into the last three matches because it was decided, so I just told the kids to go out there and wrestle their best," said Elrod, whose team has two state duals runner-up finishes. "I'm not ashamed of our effort. We ran up against three tough ones.
"We finished second in the state and, again, we don't want to keep saying that over and over, but it's notable that we finished 130-140 points ahead of the third-place team. It's real easy to focus on the 10-15 points we finished behind Jefferson, but they are probably the second-best team in the state behind [Class AAAAA school] Collins Hill."
Sonoraville may get another shot next weekend in the state duals, where Jefferson again will be the favorite. Senior Tyler Smith, who finished second at 215 pounds, believes the duals will be even closer.
"We have to work harder this week and find a way to beat Jefferson," Smith said. "We're definitely a better dual team because we're all very tight. This has been a great experience, and we can take a lot into next week."
The Firebirds, in Elrod's opinion, had to fight an uphill battle the entire tournament because they had only two top seeds. The tougher earlier matches caught up to them.
"In four weight classes my guys faced defending state champions in the semis, and they all fought back to finish third," he said. "Jefferson had a lot of one seeds and they faced a lot of eight seeds in the first round, and there were a lot of bonus points there. I'm not complaining; that's just the way it is."
The northwest Georgia area had a strong showing individually. In Class AAA, where Heritage finished second and LaFayette fifth in the team standings behind Gilmer County, Heritage's Landon Reed won the 125-pound championship and LaFayette 135-pound senior Preston McCalmon earned his third title. Murray County's Dalton Lane completed a dominating run through the 152-pound bracket with a 8-0 win for his second title.
Chattooga's Brandon Stiffles (140) was the area's only individual champion in Class AA, and Gordon Lee's Mika Clark (112) and Alex Spires (119) won titles for the Class A runners-up.