DULUTH, Ga. -- Heading into Friday night's Class AAA semifinals at the GHSA Traditional Wrestling Championships, Heritage found itself tied with nemesis Gilmer County. However, led by its strong senior class, the Ringgold school put five wrestlers into today's championship round and leads 128 points to 104.
Seniors Madison Martin (126 pounds), Landon Reed (132), Logan Perkins (145), Andy Bratton (170) and Michael Moore (195) will represent the Generals in the finals. Gilmer's Bobcats, who defeated top-seed Heritage in the state duals finals, have three wrestlers in the finals: Cameron Perry (106), Johnie Flakes (138) and Joey Ray (160).
"I'm not surprised it's us and them," said Martin, who recorded a technical fall over Gilmer's Brady McCollum before edging Oconee County's Cory Collins 8-3 in the semis. "We've been the two front-runners in Class AAA last year and this year. We sucked it up and really did well today, and if we do what we should do tomorrow, we should win it."
Gilmer does have an edge in total number of wrestlers still competing. The Bobcats have seven to six for the Generals, and Heritage coach Kenny Hill believes that could make a difference.
"With the guys they have in the wrestle-backs, they'll pick up some points on us," Hill said. "We'll need to win some titles, but we have the guys to do it."
Reed, an individual champion a year ago, earned his 200th career victory with a 12-4 major decision over North Hall's Andy Voss in the semis. He, like Martin, is focused on the team first, but he's already getting a game plan together for facing Oconee County's Jake Hodges in today's final.
"I have to be smart Saturday and not waste energy when I don't need to," the future UTC Moc said. "I need to be smart as to when to take my shots and when not to. I'm not going to think about it too much. I just want to take it easy tonight and go after it tomorrow, and hopefully we can get the job done as a team as well."
The Heritage finalists are five of 16 northwest Georgia wrestlers still in the hunt for individual titles. Also in Class AAA are Ringgold's Sam Shepard, who pulled a major upset of Gilmer's Justin Karr in the quarterfinals, Dalton's Sidney Wheeler (182) and Southeast Whitfield's Carlos Fraire at 220.
Northwest Whitfield's Dustin Pendergrass upset top-seeded Coleman Cunningham of Habersham Central, 9-8, in the Class AAAA 145-pound semifinals. In Class AA, still alive are Chattooga's J.J. Blankenship at 120 and Brandon Stiffles (152), going for his third title; and Donnell Anthony (138) and Hunter Knight (170) from Calhoun.
Gordon Lee, trailing Bremen by 8 1/2 points in Class A, has Johnny Ragsdale (106), Kory Allmond (138), Ethan West (160) and Corey Jewell (195) in the finals.