When Northwest Whitfield High School’s wrestling team missed opportunities for early pins against Dalton, the back end of the lineup picked up the slack.
Because of that, the Bruins were the ones picking up “the turtle.”
Northwest prevailed 42-34 in the finals of Tuesday’s Conasauga Cup in Dalton High’s gymnasium and won the trophy topped with a plastic turtle for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. The tournament is held each year and includes the wrestling programs at high schools in Murray and Whitfield counties.
“We should’ve wrestled better,” Northwest coach Allen Tucker said, “but some other kids stepped up and I’m glad to be bringing home ‘the turtle,’ like we wanted.”
Trailing 10-6, Tucker wanted pinfall victories — and the six team points that come with them — from Dillan Darrah at the 160-pound weight class and Jordan Pittman (170). Darrah beat Dalton’s Saul Peña 11-3 for a major decision (worth four team points), and Pittman defeated Werner Braun 15-13 in a decision for three team points.
But still trailing 22-18, Northwest eventually got the pins it needed.
Michael Robles (285), Brian Gembe (106) and Blake Hayes (113) each put his opponent’s shoulders on the mat and pushed the Bruins ahead 36-22 with four matches left. Dalton’s Rosario Guzman faced Northwest’s Timmy Peters in the 126 matchup, the second to last in the lineup, but Peters pinned her and clinched a Bruins win.
“I have a friend on the team tell me he always counts on me and (Gembe) to always get the pin,” Hayes said. “I knew going out there I really needed to help the team.”
Gembe and Hayes each only wrestled once, while Peters finished the day 2-0.
Dalton’s Jake Reeves (120), Dylan Carlile (132), Bryan Nuñez (145), Sidney Wheeler (182) and Juriel Fraire (220) each went undefeated. Catamounts coach Michael Keefe said the team is improving, evident by the closer loss margin compared to when the team faced the Bruins earlier this season in the Area 7-4A duals, where Northwest finished third.
Dalton won the East Hamilton Invitational, a traditional tournament, this past weekend in Chattanooga.
“I think we wrestled better tonight than we have all year,” Keefe said. “We wrestled Northwest, a tough team and definitely a lot better team in a lot of weight classes, and we won matches we lost last time and didn’t get pinned in matches we got pinned in last time.”
The six teams were divided into two three-team pools. Northwest joined North Murray and Southeast Whitfield in one, while Dalton joined Coahulla Creek and Murray County in the other. The two pool winners, Dalton and Northwest, faced off for the championship.
Northwest won 58-21 versus North Murray and 56-20 against Southeast. Dalton won 57-24 against Murray County and 45-35 versus Coahulla Creek. The Indians won 39-36 against the Colts to claim second place in the pool.
“We lost to Coahulla Creek pretty bad at the beginning of the year,” Murray County coach Chris Thornbury said, “so that was a big win for us.”
The Indians have won the Cup four times since its return in the 2005-2006 season after a long layoff; Southeast’s Raiders claimed the trophy last year for the first time.
Southeast won 40-36 against North Murray to claim second place in the pool on Tuesday.
“We saw some good things, and stuff we still need to work on,” Southeast coach Michael Herndon said, “but overall they wrestled hard and that’s what we’re looking for.”