Sports

February 19, 2011

Murray County’s Lane in state wrestling finals

DALTON — Murray County’s Dalton Lane is one win away from bringing home his second state wrestling championship in as many seasons, although Indians coach Chris Thornbury believes the 152-pound senior will face a serious challenge today in the Class 3A finals in Duluth.

Well, at this state tournament — and for that matter, in this traditional postseason — that would be a new development.

Lane had already dominated his way to championships at the Area 7-4A and Class 3A West sectional tournaments earlier this month, and he hasn’t slowed the pace a bit since the state traditional tournament started Thursday. Although six local wrestlers will finish today’s state tournaments by earning medals as top-six finishers in their respective weight classes — all five Georgia High School Association classifications are competing at the Gwinnett Arena — Lane will be the only one going for a title.

He’ll face Locust Grove’s Bryan Sorrows, this year’s Area 4-3A and Class 3A East sectional champion and a fourth-place state finisher last season at 140 pounds. Thornbury expect Sorrows, who at this year’s state tournament has a win by pin and two major-decision victories — including a 14-2 result against Westside-Augusta’s TreVontay Rhodes in the semifinals — to provide a tough test as Lane tries to prove himself the best in the 16-man bracket.

“He will have his hands full at the finals,” Thornbury said in a phone interview Friday night. “We know it will be tough, but he is just typical Dalton — just taking care of business. He wrestles really, really hard, and he was just on from the start in both of his matches today.”

Lane, who won Thursday’s opening-round match by default, took both of his matches Friday via a pin in the second period. He defeated Franklin County’s Aaron Payne in the quarterfinals to start his day, then turned back West Laurens’ Vacarro Jones in Friday night’s semifinals.

The 145-pound state champion in Class 3A a year ago, when he also claimed an area title — sectionals were canceled in 2010 because of snow — Lane has been able to continue his success with little trouble this season. During the traditional postseason, all but one of his 10 wins have come by default, technical fall or pin, with the latter result occurring on seven occasions in the area, sectional and state tournaments so far.

A third-place finisher at 135 as a sophomore and already one of 11 wrestlers in Murray County history to claim a state title, Lane has a chance to become just the second to win two championships. The Indians Danny McCullough won state titles at 112 and 130 in Class 3A in 1998 and 1999; no local wrestler has repeated as a state champ since Dalton’s Kyle Harrison won three straight crowns from 2002-04.

The finals in all five classes are set for 4 p.m. at the arena, following the opening ceremonies and faceoffs at 3:30 p.m. The day’s wrestling will begin with the consolation semifinals at 9:30 a.m., and the consolation semifinals are scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Admission to the tournament is $10.

The tournament will also be broadcast on Georgia Public Television and streamed live online at ghsa.tv.

Another Indians senior, Josh Webb, was one of six local wrestlers to make the state finals last season, when he finished second at 103 pounds in Class 4A. A 119-pounder this year, he dropped a decision in Friday’s quarterfinals but rebounded in the wrestlebacks with a one-point victory and a third-period pin to secure a place in the consolation semifinals, ensuring he’ll finish no worse than sixth but could do as well as third today.

Other local wrestlers who are guaranteed to return home with state medals are Dalton’s Reinaldo Torres (140) and Southeast Whitfield’s Jeremy White (103) in Class 3A and Northwest Whitfield’s Garrett Henderson (160) and Adam Selby (285) in Class 4A. For all of those remaining in the wrestlebacks, opening this morning with a win means they’ll compete for third place; opening with a loss means they’ll be up for fifth.

Torres and Henderson both lost two-point decisions in the semifinals, but they’re locked into a spot on the medal stand, with only how high they’ll step yet to be determined. White lost by major decision in the semifinals after zipping through the first two rounds with second-period pins.

Henderson, a senior, will medal at state for the third time after finishing sixth as a sophomore and fourth last year. For Torres, a junior, this year’s showing in Duluth brings extra redemption after he qualified in 2010 but failed to make weight at state. And Selby has taken the toughest route of any local wrestler who will place, overcoming losing by technical fall on Thursday with three pins on Friday.

White’s medal will mean a lot to him, no doubt, but it’s also a nice mark of progress for the program under coach Neil Nichols, who’s in his fourth season leading the Raiders. White, a junior, is the first Raider to medal for Nichols and the first since 2007, when Nolan Smith (130) finished fifth in Class 4A.

“Jeremy fought a good match,” Nichols said. “And he wants to come back and finish third, so we’ll see what happens.”

Southeast’s only other state qualifier, sophomore Carlos Fraire (215), was one of four local wrestlers who lost in the consolation quarterfinals, commonly known as the “placement round” because a victory there ensures a top-six finish. After losing by decision in the championship quarterfinals, Fraire was in danger of losing his next match as well — but he overcame a 7-1 deficit against Carrollton’s Patrick Darby to win 10-7. He then dropped a two-point decision to Druid Hills’ Joseph Ray, ending his first trip to the tournament.

“Their match was tight, and with eight seconds left the other kid hit a takedown going out of bounds,” Nichols said. “It was a great match. He just ran into a guy who was physically stronger than him, that’s what it came down to. Carlos actually outworked him, but everything he tried, the kid just blocked it.”

Dalton junior Luis Juan (112), who was sixth at 103 in 2010, also lost in the consolation quarterfinals, dropping a 2-0 decision. And Northwest — which had hoped to at least flirt with last year’s showing in the team standings, where they were second despite having only five state qualifiers — had two wrestlers frustrated in the placement round.

The Bruins’ Dustin Pendergrass (140), the Area 7-4A champion and Class 4A West sectional runner-up, won twice in the wrestlebacks on Friday before losing by decision to East sectional champion Matt Cragin of Loganville. Connor Hayes (152) recorded a pin and a 4-3 victory in the wrestlebacks before his consolation quarterfinals loss.

“We’ve wrestled well, it’s just come down to one-point matches,” Northwest coach Allen Tucker said. “There’s been some upsets here. We didn’t wrestle well the first round — it’s been that way since Christmas — and it put us all in a hole. But we were one match away from having four state placers out of five wrestlers, so you can’t ask for much more.”

North Murray’s Austin Carter made history for the second-year Mountaineers on Thursday when he became their first wrestler to win a state tourney match, but he couldn’t keep the good vibe going Friday, losing by pin in both the championship quarterfinals and the second round of wrestlebacks.

Seventeen local wrestlers qualified for state, but nine of them lost in Thursday’s opening round, and all but three of those saw their tournament time come to a quick conclusion with a loss in the first round of wrestlebacks Friday. Dalton’s Gilberto Medina (171), Murray County’s Domingo Bautista (103), Tyler Hawkins (140) and Blade LeQuire, North Murray’s Jackie Abernathy (145), and Northwest’s Hunter Guinn (171) each went 0-2 in Duluth.

While there will still be several individual highlights for local programs by the time the tourney finishes today, they won’t come close to duplicating the team success of 2010, when Northwest, Murray County and Dalton all finished in the top 10 in Class 4A.

Following Friday’s semifinals, the comfortable leader in Class 3A is Area 7-4A traditional and duals champion Gilmer, which has 140.5 points — 51.5 ahead of Locust Grove — along with four wrestlers in the finals and eight total medalists. Henry County (85) is third, while Heritage-Catoosa (84) and LaFayette (71), two other 7-4A schools, round out the top five.

Murray County’s 33 points have the Indians in 16th place, the best current standing in any classification for a local school, while Southeast (14) is tied for 23rd with Pickens and Dalton (12) shares 26th with Riverwood.

In Class 4A, Northwest’s 27 points have the Bruins just inside the top 20 at 19th. Pope (110.5) is the leader, with Union Grove (76.5), Rockdale County (71), Alexander (70) and Cass (62.5), another Area 7-4A school, filling out the top five.

In Class 2A, North Murray’s 7-4A rival Sonoraville’s 141 points have the Phoenix, a top-five finisher a year ago, pushing dynastic Jefferson.

The Dragons, who have won the state traditional title in Class A or 2A every season since 2001, lead with 152.5 points and have four wrestlers in the finals, one more than Sonoraville. But Sonoraville’s 11 medalists give it a one-man edge in that category, so there’s plenty of room for the title race to go either way today.

In Class 5A, Collins Hill (186) is well on its way to its sixth traditional title since 2002, with Camden (106), Valdosta (91.5), Peachtree Ridge (84) and Milton (57.5) the other top-five teams.

Class A is led by Bremen (141), which holds a 63-point edge over second-place Commerce and is ready to claim its third straight title — all won since Jefferson moved up a classification. Wesleyan and Gordon Lee share fourth with 70 points, while Holy Innocents’ (52) is fifth.

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