Kennesaw Mountain squeaked by Marietta 34-31 in the semifinals, then rallied from a 27-6 deficit to beat McEachern 39-30 in the finals.
Kennesaw Mountain led McEachern 33-30 after Justan Rivera’s 52 second-pin at 182 pounds, and it came down to a bout between the Mustangs’ Corbin Spencer and Indians’ Daquan Vereen at 195 to determine the champion.
Spencer took his lumps early against Vereen and found himself in some precarious situations that led to points and a possible pin for his opponent. But Spencer capitalized on an error in the second period to earn a pin in 2:22 and clinch the title for the Mustangs.
“Going on to the mat, (coach Roberto Rivera) told me that I need to catch (Vereen) with something, and that I needed to get that win somehow so we could win this region,” Spencer said. “When I got on the mat, the guy was stronger than me, but when he made a mistake, I was able to catch him on that to get the pin to win it.”
Despite his early troubles, Spencer was determined to win.
“I wasn’t going to let myself lose and let the entire team down,” he said. “It was just a force of will for me. It feels great to get this win for my team. I’ve never been greatly successful at high school, and this is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in high school.”
With the victory Kennesaw Mountain, qualified for its sixth straight state duals and will travel to Macon to compete for a state crown Thursday.
Marietta will also return to the state duals after beating McEachern 52-17 for “true second.”
“That’s our goal every year to come in and win a region championship and go to the state duals,” Roberto Rivera said, “and now we’ve done that for the sixth year in a row. Regardless of what team we put out there, we expect to be one of the top teams in the region.
“We had some holes in our lineup (Saturday), but we expected the veteran guys to come through for us, and that’s what happened.”
Kennesaw Mountain fell behind 27-6 early against McEachern after Christian Wade (220 pounds), Uche Nkadi (285), Maleek Roberts (106), Dorian Paul (120) and Timothy Noble recorded wins. Donavan Garcia’s pin at 113 put points on the board for the Mustangs.
Following Noble’s victory, Kennesaw Mountain won five straight bouts behind Matthew Michaud (132), Augusto Paes (138), Henrio Thelemaque (145), Brycen Colon (152) and Brandon London (160) to tie the match at 27-all.
Tyri Brown’s decision at 170 put McEachern up 30-27, but Justan Rivera and Spencer cemented the rally for Kennesaw Mountain.
“Everybody is not gifted athletically, so (Spencer) knows his strength is to outhustle and outwork his opponent,” Roberto Rivera said. “He’s not the strongest kid, but he is probably the hardest worker on our team with what he has in athletic ability. We tell him to wear kids out and stay in the game, stay in the match, take it to the third period and good things will happen. He showed that (Saturday).”
Marietta earned its second straight postseason trip after a grueling five-match day. The Blue Devils beat South Cobb (72-6) and subsequently lost to Kennesaw Mountain. They topped Hillgrove (57-19) and Harrison (52-21) in the consolation bracket before defeating McEachern.
Marietta trailed Kennesaw Mountain 12-0 before rallying for a 15-12 advantage. The lead flip-flopped a few times until a 25-all tie with three bouts remaining. Thelemaque collected a pin at 145, and Colon’s takedown in overtime at 152 clinched the semifinal win for the Mustangs who led 34-25 with one match left.
Marietta rolled to its win over McEachern, claiming 10 of the 14 bouts. Jeron Holsey (285), Jason Caldwell (106), Daniel Leon (113), Jelani Miller (120), Brad King (132), Alex Ambio (152), Jonathan Gates (160), Anthony Neary (170), Dalton Brans (182) and Isaiah Borne (195) earned wins for Marietta.
Noble, Addul Muhammad (138), Zach Murphy (145) and Wade won for McEachern.
“We’re appreciative of the chance to get back to Macon,” Marietta coach Tommy Carthers said. “It wasn’t how we envisioned it, but we’ll take it. The kids stepped up. They were a little down after we lost a tough match against Kennesaw Mountain. The guys knew they had a shot at it, but they didn’t do everything they could have done to win it.”
McEachern beat North Cobb (46-15) and Harrison to put itself in position for a trip to Macon.
“I’m proud of the way our guys fought, but disappointed in the outcome of course,” McEachern coach Ben Hamburg said. “I can’t ask for a whole lot more from our guys. It came down to the last match against Kennesaw Mountain and it just didn’t go our way.”