Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta and Allatoona also competed but it was Pope’s 60-15 win over Hardaway in Class AAAAA and Wheeler’s 36-27 triumph against Alcovy in Class AAAAAA that proved to be the lone successes.
Kennesaw Mountain and Marietta lost their respective matches to North Gwinnett and Collins Hill in Class AAAAAA, while Allatoona couldn’t get past Ware County in Class AAAAA.
Pope, ranked 34th in the nation by InterMat and 28th by Amateur Wrestling News, won its first state duals championship last year in Class AAAA. The No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, the Greyhounds performed well across the board Thursday as they looked to add to their state title haul. Pope will face Whitewater in the quarterfinals today.
“We took care of things in the first round,” coach Jim Haskin said. “We had some junior varsity guys fill in at some spots and rested some other guys and took care of business. Our mindset is good. We’ve wrestled some of the top competition in the country this season, so we’re battled-tested and we expect to win this thing.
“But we know we have to perform on the mats to make that happen, and we have that ability. These guys have been doing this all year against tough teams, and as long as we don’t beat ourselves, I feel pretty good about our chances.”
Pope’s Preston Markwell (120 pounds) and Tyler Haskin (126) earned forfeit wins. Other winners included Josh Tazzetta (106), Sam Skinner (113), Colton Lombardy (145), Jake Henson (152), Billy Meek (160), Zeke Weber (170), Trevor Stevens (182), Curran McMahon (195) and Joey Tabachino (220).
Although Wheeler never trailed in its match, Alcovy did keep it close. Adanis Basilio clinched the victory with an 8-4 decision at 160 pounds, giving the Wildcats an insurmountable 36-21 lead.
“It was huge to get this win,” Wheeler coach Matt Brickley said. “First, it was huge to qualify, and then to get a win in our first match is big for these guys and big for the program and big for the school in general.
“We led the whole dual, but Alcovy would make it close, and then we’d pull away again. This clinches at least a top-12 finish for us, so that’s not bad for our first time here, but we’re looking to do more.”
Wheeler also got wins from Sergei Kilic (106), Lucas Sousa (220), K.C. Shaw (285), Bryce Murray (120), Victor Garcia (126), Wysmark Chaves (132) and Aaron McGilvery (138). Sousa and Shaw won via pin.
Wheeler advanced to face No. 2 seed Collins Hill in the quarterfinals today.
“I think we’ll be competitive with Collins Hill if we can get a key couple of guys to grind out some wins,” Brickley said. “Nothing flashy, just some hard-nosed wrestling, (and) we have a chance.”
Collins Hill beat Marietta 43-15 to challenge Wheeler in the second round. The Blue Devils, who earned victories from Isaiah Borne (195), Brandon Hill (220) and Lawton Ward (170), will take on Alcovy in a first-round consolation match today.
“(Collins Hill is) still a tough team to beat,” Marietta coach Tommy Carthers said. “We had our chances at some weight classes, but their strength stood out. I don’t know much about Alcovy, so we’ll just have to see what happens.”
North Gwinnett topped Kennesaw Mountain 38-18, forcing the Mustangs into a first-round consolation match against Lowndes, which fell to top-seeded Archer 62-10.
Like Wheeler, Allatoona was also making its first state duals appearance. The Buccaneers fell behind Ware County 30-0 and couldn’t recover.
Jack Woods earned a pin at 120 pounds as did Brad Scott (138). Jarrett Williams (126), Logan Southard (132) and Will Kemp (152) each won via decision.
“Ware County had some good kids at every weight class,” said Allatoona coach Joe Lanier, who will lead his team into a first-round consolation against Northside-Warner Robins today. “I think nerves played a part for us. Ware took that big lead at the heavier weights and we couldn’t get momentum to come back. That hurt us. It comes down to wrestling within themselves.
“We’ll have to get a better start (today) and pick up wins where we have younger guys. They have to be able to step it up for us to continue on.”