Pope overcame a 22-0 deficit to beat Ware County 43-25, while Allatoona dominated its matchup against Warner Robins, en route to a 69-8 triumph.
Kennesaw Mountain wrestled a hard-fought match against Newton, but ultimately fell 36-33. Marietta fell behind North Forsyth early and never recovered in a 42-18 loss.
Pope and Allatoona will continue in the winners’ bracket today against their respective opponents, Whitewater and Clarke Central. If the two county teams win their quarterfinal matches, they would face one another in the semifinals later in the day.
Marietta will face Douglas County in the consolation round, while Kennesaw Mountain will match up against Lowndes.
Much like its battle against Creekview for the Area 7AAAAA championship, Pope found itself in an early hole against Ware County, which staked a 25-6 lead halfway through the match. But like they did last week, the Greyhounds rallied with 37 straight points to cap the comeback and stay on track for their third consecutive state dual crown.
“This tournament is not going to be easy,” Pope coach Jim Haskin said. “The match started in a spot where we have some kids that are new to this state dual environment. They got into some bad spots and got pinned and Ware County just got out in front.
“But our experienced guys came through later in the match with some wins that got us some big points and we took the lead and built on that. In the end, it looks like we took care of (Ware County) easy, but it wasn’t easy. They were really tough and they were gunning for us.”
Ware County opened with three pins in the first four bouts to take a 22-0 lead. Josh Tazzetta’s pin at 113 put the Greyhounds on the board, but Ware collected a decision at 120 to move ahead 25-6.
Sam Skinner trailed 11-8 in his bout at 126, but his opponent was penalized for locking his hands — the Ware wrestler’s fourth point penalty of the match — with 7 seconds remaining in the final period, and Skinner was awarded a technical violation victory that left Pope trailing 25-12.
That’s when the comeback started.
Tyler Haskin (132 pounds) and Jake Adcock (138) each earned technical falls to trim the deficit to 25-22. T.J. Collins collected a decision at 145 and Davis Burson (152) and Jake Henson (160) recorded technical falls, giving the Greyhounds a 35-25 advantage.
Colton Lombardy (170) and Zeke Weber (182) each had a major decision to round out the win for Pope.
Jim Haskin understood that his wrestlers will get every opponent’s best shot in this tournament.
“In the position we’ve been in for a while. Everybody wants to beat you,” he said. “I like where we are, but it won’t be an easy road. I had a good talk with the kids afterwards, that they can’t give up pins and points. Now that the new kids have had their first match here, they know that it’s no different than any other match and they have to wrestle smart.”
Allatoona started strong and finished strong in its win over Warner Robins.
Cody Webb (195) started the match with a pin, but Alex Valentine suffered a close decision setback at 220. Amir Moore’s (285) injury default victory was followed by pins from Harrison Kemp (106), Latrell Harris (113) and Cody Anderson (120) that put the Buccaneers ahead 30-3.
Ethan Benedict (132), Jack Woods (138), Eric Vermette (145), Jack Barilow (152), Will Kemp (160) and Chrishawn Mitchell (182) also had pins. Jarrett Williams then picked up a decision over Tim Randolph — who finished third in the traditional state tournament last year — at 126.
The victory marked Allatoona’s first opening-round win at the state duals, in just their second tournament appearance.
“I’m not surprised how well the team wrestled,” coach Joe Lanier said. “I felt good going in. We knew we had to do better here than we did last year and string some wins together.
“Getting out of the first round is huge because you don’t have to go as through the wrestlebacks now. I didn’t expect this win to be a blowout, but I’ll take it. If we can wrestle like we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks, we’ll do well here. The boys are on a mission to do something they’ve never done before.”