From Staff Reports
Southeast Whitfield’s Austin Allen and Dalton’s Sidney Wheeler facing one another has happened before — and may happen again.
A Coahulla Creek wrestler winning an area title? That’s a first.
Clay Thornbury winning an area championship? Another accomplishment that hasn’t occurred before.
And a Morris Innovative wrestler advancing to sectionals? Make it a trifecta of new occurrences.
Francisco Sanchez took the 113-pound championship at the Area 2-3A duals, held at Central-Carrollton High School, to become the first in Coahulla Creek’s 3-year-old program to bring home a championship. At the Area 3-2A duals at Lovett High School in Atlanta, Murray County’s Clay Thornbury (195) accomplished his own first, winning an area title, and Morris Innovative’s Jason Marquez (285) placed third as the program’s first varsity wrestler continued his senior season.
But the anticipated matchup featuring two local wrestlers was at Cass High School, where Allen and Wheeler once again faced for the 182-pound title. This time for an Area 7-4A championship, Wheeler made it two in a row in the rivalry as both advanced to next weekend’s sectionals tournament at Fayette County High School, where a spot in the state bracket is on the line.
Also in the Area 7-4A duals, Northwest Whitfield qualified seven wrestlers, the most of any local school, for sectionals. Jordan Pittman (170) was the Bruins’ lone area champion.
The top four from each weight class advance to the sectional tournaments. When Allen and Wheeler faced, it wasn’t to advance. They aimed for first place.
The two faced off at the Carpet Classic tournament in December, when Wheeler eliminated a 4-1 deficit in the third quarter and won 9-6. This time, Wheeler won 13-8 for the area championship after each put the other on his back during the match.
Allen said after the first loss he anticipated at least one rematch — and Wheeler said after Saturday’s encounter, “He got it.”
Wheeler is a three-peat area champion and won the Class 3A state championship in 2012.
Now he’s aiming for a second state title.
“It’s not quite a sweep, but it’s still good,” Wheeler said. “I’m going to try and make it two state championships and wrestle my heart out.”
Southeast coach Michael Herndon said both Allen and Wheeler know the ultimate goal remains.
“(Austin’s) disappointed he lost the match, but it’s time to go back to practice and work harder,” Herndon said.
Joining Pittman at sectionals for Northwest was Austin Taylor (152, second), Brian Gembe (106, fourth), Blake Hayes (113, fourth), Justin Thomas (120, fourth), Jordan Lewis (195, fourth) and Michael Robles (285, fourth). Dylan Pittman (132) and Dillan Darrah (160) each finished fifth and will be alternates for the Bruins, who finished fourth in team standings with 150.5 points behind Gilmer (276), Cass (257) and Heritage-Catoosa (161.5).
“We did about as good as we can do,” Northwes coach Allen Tucker said. “We have half of the team going to sectionals, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
Tucker said Pittman earned a pinfall win in the semifinals after falling behind 6-0 and pinned Cass’ Micah Barron in the second period. Taylor wrestled Gilmer’s Johnny Flakes, a two-time state champion, and lost 9-6 in the championship.
Omar Ruiz (120) finished third for the Raiders, which also saw Tyler Brown (145) and Dylan Burch (152) finish fourth.
“You always hope for more,” Herndon said, “but looking to the end of the season and how tough our area is plus how young are team is, we were hoping for three but maybe someone could slip in.”
Dylan Carlile (132) finished third as the only Catamount advancing with Wheeler. Jose Garcia (138) and Daniel Valdez (152) each finished fifth and will be alternates for Dalton.
• At the Area 2-3A tournament, Sanchez made his mark in Coahulla Creek history books and two others added another milestone for the young program.
Levi Kinsey (106) finished second, and Joseph Long (152) finished third as the Colts advanced multiple wrestlers to sectionals — to be held at Sonoraville High — for the first time in the program’s three-year history. Labron Kendrick (138) finished fifth and is an alternate. The Colts finished seventh as a team, a ranking that matters little in the individual-dominated tournament. Adairsville won with Sonoraville in second.
“There wasn’t a single team down there than was full,” Coahulla Creek coach Anthony Thomas said. “We had 10. We didn’t have anyone at 160, 170, 182 or 285.”
Two wrestlers from North Murray advanced as Alex Gambino (113) finished second and Luis Valdez (120) finished fourth. Both Tyler McKee (152) and Ethan Center (160) finished fifth and will be alternates.
• At the Area 3-2A tournament, Murray County saw Thornbury finish first and two other wrestlers place in the top four.
Domingo Bautista (113) finished third and Daniel Dayton (126) finished fourth as the Indians’ other advancers to next weekend’s sectionals tournament, to be held at Bremen High.
“I’m really really proud of Clay,” his father, coach Chris Thornbury, said. “I’m proud of Domingo and Daniel. I’m proud of all those guys. They did great.”
Marquez was one of only two Morris Innovative wrestlers competing — the other was 138-pounder Jonathan Lumpkin, a freshman — and entered the bracket unseeded.
“He lost a really close match in the semifinals,” Marquez’s coach, Nathan Dawson, said. “He was up in points but got pinned. He won twice more to finish third. All of his wins were pins.”
Austin McCall (120) and Dustin Gibson (182) finshed fifth for Murray County and will be alternates.