Wrestling at 170 and 182 pounds, respectively, the duo has a combined record of 80-6 this season, and they’ve advanced to the finals and won almost every tournament they’ve entered.
It’s a luxury coach Roberto Rivera, Justan’s father, has grown accustomed to having.
“I always pencil them in as champs or wins,” he said. “It feels pretty good to know you can almost guarantee wins when those guys get on the mat.”
Having dominant wrestlers is always the goal of any coach, especially in a dual-match setting. As dual meets come to a close and traditional tournaments pick up this weekend, it’s the final time for coaches to make adjustments as the season winds down.
“Those two guys give us two slots that we feel comfortable with,” Roberto Rivera said. “We have options with those guys if we need to bump somebody up or just let them wrestle, and we used that at times during the season.”
Other local programs have solid wrestlers back-to-back in the lineup, including Hillgrove, Wheeler, Lassiter and Pope, which is ranked 30th in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News and 34th by InterMat.
Hillgrove’s Carlin Powell (113) and Cameron Westerman (120) have been a solid 1-2 punch, totaling 75 wins. Powell, a Cobb County champion as a freshman, has gone 37-11 on the year, while Westerman is 38-10.
Campbell’s Jamez Taylor and Charles Robinson aren’t a 1-2 punch in the literal sense, but they can be counted on to provide victories. Taylor is 38-6 at 132 pounds, while Robinson is 46-5 at 160.
Wheeler has the unique pairing of two strong sets of wrestling brothers Aslan Kilic is 38-9 at 106 pounds and recently won a county title in his first season, while Sergei Kilic is 30-9 at 113 pounds.
“It’s almost expected when those guys go out that they’re going to win,” Wheeler coach Matt Brickley said. “Not that they’re better wrestlers than the other guys I have on the mat, but they’re guys that come through in clutch time.
“I can move them around, which makes things easier as far as lineups and matchups go. Sergei even weighs less than Aslan, so I can change them up if necessary. They’ve been together for years. They help out in practice, and that translates at the meets.”
Brickley has also found success with the combination of Wysmark Chaves and Aaron McGilvery.
Chaves is 33-5 on the season at 132 pounds and is a recent county champion. McGilvery, who is recovering from an injury, is a former region champion who is 9-2 on the year at 138.
“Aaron has been back since Jan. 8, and is a two-time region finalist and former Cobb County finalist,” Brickley said. “When you have some really good wrestlers, it takes away some of the other teams momentum if they happen to go on a run.”
Lassiter’s combination includes Paul Pelletier at 120 pounds and his brother, A.J., at 126. Paul is 31-1 on the season with a Cobb County title, while A.J. is 20-7.
Pope has the strongest go-to lineup Jake Henson (152) and Billy Meek (160) before giving way to Brooks Climmons (182), Trevor Stevens (195), Joey Tabachino (220) and Taylor Howard (285).
Henson and Meek are a combined 82-5, while Climmons, Stevens, Tabachino and Howard are 145-13.
“Part of the reason these guys get to be so good is because they’re workout partners in practice,” Pope coach Jim Haskin said. “They’re together every day, and they make each other better. It’s definitely a plus to have guys in the lineup that you can count on.”
Having really strong wrestlers in practice can also be used a teaching tool.
“Everybody sees, when (Justan and Rene) drill, or when they wrestle live, it elevates everybody’s game up,” Roberto Rivera said. “I use them as examples to the other guys so they can work harder to get to that level.”