Wait ends for wrestling title hopefuls
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
February 21, 2014 04:03 AM | 1470 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Wrestlers have anxiously waited for the start of the traditional state championships.

After the event was postponed due to last week’s winter storm, and the venue changed from the Arena at Gwinnett Center, 73 Cobb County wrestlers will finally get their chance to compete for titles.

The Class AAAAAA tournament will start today at Chattahoochee, with first-round action at 4 p.m., continuing Saturday at 9 a.m. The finals are scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Class AAAAA tournament will take place at Loganville, with the first round starting today at 4 p.m. Competition continues Saturday at 8 a.m., and the finals are also slated to start at 6 p.m.

Class A will hold its championship at Commerce, beginning with the quarterfinal round Saturday at 9 a.m. The finals are also scheduled for 6 p.m.

Eleven state-placers from a year ago — including three returning champions — are among the local wrestlers vying for state titles this weekend.

Returning placers include Pope’s Josh Tazzetta, T.J. Collins, Davis Burson, Jake Adcock and Jake Henson, Allatoona’s Ethan Benedict and Will Kemp, Walton’s Jacob Murphy, Kennesaw Mountain’s Justan Rivera, McEachern’s Christian Wade and Walker’s William Schubert.

Henson and Rivera are returning state champions, having won their respective titles at 152 pounds in Class AAAAA and 182 in AAAAAA. Henson is out to claim his third straight state title and make a fourth consecutive finals appearance, while Rivera is aiming to become a three-time state champion.

Murphy is another returning champion, having won last year’s 132-pound crown in Class AAAAAA. Adcock won the 120-pound state title two years ago as a freshman at Carrollton.

“I feel like everyone is excited to get things going,” Henson said. “I feel like it’s been dragging on. We were out a full week from practice and then had to come back and prepare for the biggest tournament of our season.

“It was mentally tough to come out of sectionals on a high and then have to wait around. It’s been tough to focus, but we’ll still have to go out there and do what we do.”

Henson (160) and Adcock (138) won sectional titles two weeks ago, as did Kemp (160), putting them among the favorites in Class AAAAA. Rivera (182), Wade (220), Murphy (138) and Marietta’s Jonathan Gates (170) won in their Class AAAAAA sectional, while Schubert captured a Class A sectional title.

Pope is aiming for its fourth consecutive team championship, but retaining the crown will be difficult for the Greyhounds, who only qualified nine wrestlers to Loganville.

Pope saw its streak of six straight area traditional championships come to an end three weeks ago at Cambridge. The Greyhounds still have a chance to sweep the state dual and traditional titles for the third year in a row, but the loss of injured wrestlers Tyler Haskin and Zeke Weber will hurt Pope’s chances.

“It will definitely be a challenge,” Pope coach Jim Haskin said. “Losing Tyler and Zeke takes at least 30 points off the board right there. It was tough on the kids and their teammates. It’s just a tough situation all away around.

“But we’ve had some great practices, and I don’t think the kids are feeling any real pressure. They’re confident and I feel like they’re ready. Once they get on the mats, any nerves will just go away.”

Joining Pope’s wrestlers in the Class AAAAA tournament are Allatoona (eight qualifiers), Kell (three) and Sprayberry (three).

Kennesaw Mountain is also looking to add to its state title haul. The Mustangs, who have six qualifiers, have crowned at least one individual champion each of the past five seasons.

Joining the Mustangs in the Class AAAAAA field are Campbell (one), Harrison (five), Hillgrove (five), Lassiter (four), Marietta (eight), McEachern (seven), North Cobb (one), Walton (three) and Wheeler (five).

“I think we definitely have the ability to finish in the top 10, and even the top five, in the state,” Marietta coach Tommy Carthers said. “That was one of our long-term goals going into the season. We want to get multiple state-placers and place as high as a team as we can. I feel good about where the guys are right now and optimistic we’ll see some very good results.”

Schubert, a junior, placed sixth in the state as a 120-pound freshman and was fourth last year at 132. He will compete at 145 pounds this season with an eye towards the championship.

He will be joined by Walker teammate Cameron Milton (152) on Saturday.

Mount Paran Christian’s third-year varsity program made history last year when it qualified wrestlers to the state meet for the first time. Sectional runner-up Ian Williams (106) has kept the streak alive by advancing to the finals.

North Cobb Christian, also in its third year of varsity competition, made history as well, qualifying two wrestlers — sophomore Sam Resultan and freshman Mark Watson — to the Class A tournament.
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