February 23, 2014

Dalton’s Wheeler a state wrestling champion again

Three others finish second

The fourth encounter between Dalton High School’s Sidney Wheeler and Southeast Whitfield’s Austin Allen may have been the best.

Despite Allen’s best efforts, Wheeler now can call himself a two-time 182-pound state wrestling champion.

Wheeler, who won the 2012 Class 3A state title in the same weight class, won 8-6 in overtime Saturday in the Class 4A state traditional tournament at West Laurens High School against the kid he’d faced and beaten three times this season.

Aside from Allen, Southeast’s Omar Ruiz (120) also finished as a runner-up at the same tournament. In Class 2A, Murray County’s Clay Thornbury (195) finished second at Toombs County High School.

Wheeler’s teammate, Dylan Carlile (132), finished third at the 4A tournament, where Northwest’s Austin Taylor (152) was fifth and Jordan Pittman (170) was sixth.

Wheeler and Allen faced once at Dalton High School’s Carpet Classic tournament, once at the Area 7-4A traditional tournament and once at the Class 4A West sectional. Wheeler won all three meetings, the third via pin, but the fourth matchup was the most competitive. None of the first three matches went to an extra period.

“Austin gave a great match,” Wheeler said. “It was a well-de-served win and he was a great opp-onent. ... I’m just happy I can walk away with a win. It wouldn’t be possible without my family, coaches and God.

“I didn’t have a good run the whole tournament. It came back to me in the finals. Austin did the same.”

Neither wrestler scored in the first period of their final matchup. Allen gained a 3-0 edge after choosing to start the second period on bottom, escaping for one point and following with a two-point takedown. Wheeler tied it up with a two-point takedown following Allen being penalized one point for locking his hands.

“The first period was a lot of feeling each other out,” Southeast coach Michael Herndon said, “and the second period was a lot of action.”

Wheeler led 6-4 late in the third period but Allen tied it up with a takedown with around 10 or 15 seconds left, Herndon said. In overtime, where the first person to score wins, Wheeler got a single-leg takedown on Allen for the clinching two points.

“It was pretty early in overtime,” Dalton coach Michael Keefe said. “It was an incredible match on both their parts.”

Wheeler said he saw his chance and “took it.”

“There’s not much more to say than that,” Wheeler said. “Austin is a great wrestler.”

Herndon said this was the most competitive of the four meetings between the two seniors.

“Austin has had a great season,” he said. “He’s up near 60 wins this year. He’s only lost four times, all to Sidney Wheeler.”

The previous year Wheeler won a state title, Allen made it to state but lost both his matches. Last year, Allen was one win from placing at state.

“It hurts any way you look at it,” Herndon said. “We’ve worked all year. It hurts to know there is just one kid you had to beat. Sidney is a great wrestler, but we’re proud of Austin. Finishing second to a kid who already won state, we know Austin had a great season.”

Ruiz, a runner-up in the Class 4A West sectional to Gilmer’s Daniel Bautista, lost to Bautista via pin in the championship. Ruiz is a junior and can follow up next season on an impressive year.

“We’re definitely glad to have him back,” Herndon said. “The kid from Gilmer is a senior and wrestled at a different level than he did last week. He knew it was his last shot. We expected Omar to do well. At those lower weights, you’re never sure how people will do.”

After splitting two matches Friday, Carlile won four matches on Saturday to conclude his senior year.

“He finished third in a weight class with three state champions,” Keefe said. “He wrestled a great state tournament.”

Southeast’s Tyler Brown (145) lost in the first round of the consolation bracket, going 0-2 at the tournament.

Thornbury, the champion from the Class 2A West Sectional, won three matches Saturday to reach the finals but lost via pin to Toombs County’s J.D. Rogers.

Thornbury’s teammate, Domingo Bautista (113), lost his first two matches.

In Class 4A, Pittman started the day in the semifinals and was two wins from a state title before losing in the semifinals and losing two matches in the consolation bracket.

Northwest’s other state qualifiers were Blake Hayes (113), Justin Palmer (120) and Jordan Lewis (195). Hayes and Palmer each lost in the consolation quarterfinals, one spot from placing. Lewis, a freshman, lost in the consolation first round. The other four Bruins are juniors.

“All our kids wrestled well,” Northwest coach Allen Tucker said. “For some of them, they didn’t get out of sectionals (last season). Both Austin and Jordan went from being sectional guys to state placers.”

At the Class 3A tournament at Buford High School, Coahulla Creek’s Francisco Sanchez (113) went 0-2.

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